“Alternate” Traditions in Marginalized (or Colonized) Groups

The notion of inheriting another tradition within a marginalized group is misunderstood if it is seen as an “alternate tradition” in some substantial manner. The traditions of the marginalized group are impossible to inherit in any direct sense, what is inherited is both an understanding that there was a different tradition, and that it became impossible due to changes in the larger social context. As such one inherits, with everyone else, the mainstream tradition, but along with it an implicit critique.

In the West, mainstream traditions don’t simply posit themselves as such, they are also posited as developmental, “progressive”, in a sense that is usually self-congratulatory. Its exclusivity is also demonstrated in that the understanding that other traditions were contradicts the mainstream’s version of the past as what-has-been, and excludes other possible avenues.

Everyone within a given society inherits the main tradition of that society. What the person from a marginalized community may also inherit as an “alternate” is the impossibility of an alternate, but an impossibility that became so, not one that always was and therefore inherently is. This alternate view of the tradition subverts the determinism of the history of the mainstream tradition contained in the exclusionary story it has of itself, and only in this way can the marginalized find a possibility of improvising a new tradition, one in which they have a place. This improvisation must come out of the mainstream tradition, since there is factically no other to draw from, and since in remaining within that society the improvisation must become operative within and out of the mainstream.

 

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What if the Financial System Collapsed? A Thought Experiment …

This isn’t an attempt at fear mongering or some #tinfoil prediction, since I don’t think the financial system will fall apart, at least not in the near term.  Or more accurately, if it does, governments will do anything at all, however stupid, to prop it back up.  And given how terrifying the notion that it even could happen is to most people, they’ll get public support for the most part in whatever idiocy they involve themselves in.

Instead of looking at the more realistic scenarios, though, I thought it would be more interesting to look at what might actually happen if, rather than desperately trying to prop up a system that has threatened to collapse at least once a decade since the 1970s, governments simply let it collapse. 

The fear, of course, has a reasonable basis.  The financial system is the means by which we exchange.  Without exchange we have serious problems (even more serious than we have now).  Everything is based on exchange in one way or another.  Life itself, as metabolism, is after all a type of exchange.  The fallacy is that exchange is dependent on the financial system, the particular one we have, or any in general.  The fetishism of Capitalism is that the profit-motive is the only or the primary motive for exchange, when in reality people exchange things, labour, etc., for any number of different reasons,  nearly as numerous perhaps as exchanges themselves. 

Bur what, in fact, would be likely in the event of a total collapse of the world’s financial system, which could perhaps occur if governments were either unable to stop the collapse due to its sheer size, or simply became tired of taking orders from bankers and decided to let the source of their power self-destruct?

Firstly, there would be a huge amount of confusion.  There is so little cash in today’s society that if the systems that allow us to pay and be paid by bank cards, direct deposit etc. simply didn’t function, we could not simply use cash.  And that cash, in any case, is only guaranteed by the same system.  People could of course barter locally, but that hardly solves much in a society dependent on global trade.  And the assumption would be that the collapse is very temporary, an assumption governments and corporations would be unlikely to want to damage initially. 

How easily could a new system be set up though?  The current system has grown, somewhat organically, from beginnings in the Renaissance through the Bank of England (and the Empire that propagated the system) to the almost autonomous and hugely complex system we have.  Almost autonomous, because it cannot actually create the value which its accounting is supposed to measure. 

Setting up a new system, if this one failed, would be a monstrous undertaking that would require the agreement of most of the world’s governments, the IMF, a number of the most powerful global corporations and the public, or at least that part of the public with a say (precisely who that would be, since those with the most say currently would have nothing to base any power on, is difficult to determine).  Needless to say all of these have conflicting interests, conflicts that currently are sorted precisely through the system, but without said system they would have to be dealt with directly.  It’s not difficult to see that any type of necessary consensus might be impossible to achieve. 

So, situationally, we would have no system, together with a common assumption that the situation is going to be a short lived thing.   Based on that assumption, and in order to assuage the anxiety brought on by the confusion, most people would continue to do what they were in fact doing prior to the collapse.  Large commercial traders would have to keep trading, and given that there would be no way to determine what credit worthiness might look like once a new system is started, the only feasible method would be to deliver in return for some sort of promissory.  Similarly wages would have to be paid via some sort of promissory, but there would be no way to measure such promissories against one another, no way to reconcile the balance.  How long could this go on?  Indefinitely, in fact.  As a small scale example, consider no-fault insurance.  Rather than constantly paying one another, insurance companies in Canada simply ignore fault on a day to day operations basis, tallying up the net transfers between them on a yearly basis.  Would they go out of business without the yearly tallying?  There’s no reason to believe so.  Similarly, companies today would go out of business without bank financing, because they have to pay salaries and external costs of doing business, and then tally it up later with sales, but if those costs were promissories, there’s no reason to believe they would have any need of bank financing for daily operations. 

The obvious (and in some countries huge) exception is those who work in or whose income is based off the financial system itself.  This includes not only those in the finance and insurance industries, but all of the wealthy.  The country most devastated in this sense would be the U.S., where nearly 70% of workers work in finance and insurance, and the majority of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families have their wealth managed.  For the latter, they simply would no longer have anything other than direct property, and to the degree that direct property requires protection, no way to protect that either.  And they would have to deal with close to 80% of the population being unemployed and likely none too thrilled with them.  Without the financial system, the small number of the truly wealthy would be irrelevant if they survived at all. Since they would no longer be wealthy, they would just be a few extra unskilled welfare cases.

Those in finance will bring up the fact that without the capital accumulation of the wealthy, there will be no investment in new technologies, in infrastructure, etc.  In response I would just note that technology itself has lowered the cost of innovation to next to nothing, and most infrastructure is created by public agencies, not private wealth, so I’m not convinced it would matter all that much. 

So then here is the question the thought experiment leads me to:  what if the financial system collapsed and nothing significant happened?

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Bias and Science Denial

I just read an interesting article on the phenomenon of ‘science deniers’ – interesting in the sense that, not written from an American perspective, the usual equation of science deniers and the political right was contradicted. While deniers of things such as climate change and evolution are obviously associated with the political right, other science deniers, such as those that deny the validity of scientific assurances as to the safety of GMO crops, for instance, tend to be associated with the political left.

Without getting into the examination of the truth-claims of what is scientifically correct, but simply looking at the claims from the scientific perspective, in terms of amount and consistency of evidence the GMO safety claims have a greater likelihood of scientific validity. Yet pro-science left liberals, who are horrified at the idea of questioning evolution or global warming are perfectly comfortable questioning the validity of GMO safety claims.

The obvious rejoinder is that GMO claims are liable to be biased by political and economic interests, which although a perfectly valid perspective for critique, would be the rejoinder those on the right would make concerning global warming and even evolutionary theory. The interesting question for me is how those who are 100% convinced of the intrinsic lack of bias in other areas are so quick to admit the possibility of bias when the results don’t agree with what they prefer to think.

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“Alternate” Traditions in Marginalized (or Colonized) Groups

The notion of inheriting another tradition within a marginalized group is misunderstood if it is seen as an “alternate tradition” in some substantial manner. The traditions of the marginalized group are impossible to inherit in any direct sense, what is inherited is both an understanding that there was a different tradition, and that it became impossible due to changes in the larger social context. As such one inherits, with everyone else, the mainstream tradition, but along with it an implicit critique.

In the West, mainstream traditions don’t simply posit themselves as such, they are also posited as developmental, “progressive”, in a sense that is usually self-congratulatory. Its exclusivity is also demonstrated in that the understanding that other traditions were contradicts the mainstream’s version of the past as what-has-been, and excludes other possible avenues.

Everyone within a given society inherits the main tradition of that society. What the person from a marginalized community may also inherit as an “alternate” is the impossibility of an alternate, but an impossibility that became so, not one that always was and therefore inherently is. This alternate view of the tradition subverts the determinism of the history of the mainstream tradition contained in the exclusionary story it has of itself, and only in this way can the marginalized find a possibility of improvising a new tradition, one in which they have a place. This improvisation must come out of the mainstream tradition, since there is factically no other to draw from, and since in remaining within that society the improvisation must become operative within and out of the mainstream.

 

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Re: The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were smarter theologians than the jihadis – Giles Fraser, The Guardian, Jan 9 2015

“Whatever else was happening, it was the atheist cartoonists who were performing the religious function and the apparently believing Muslims who had forgotten their deepest religious insights. For any representation of the divine that leads people to murder each other deserves the maximum possible disrespect.” – Giles Fraser, The Guardian

I might be with the writer on this, at least as far as intent goes, if the religious images being disrespected weren’t accompanied by other figures that go along with and help sustain the idolatry of the West. Theologically, though, smashing a false representation, such as the “golden calf” of Moses, must target an operative representation to have any validity, otherwise it’s no more than bait and switch. The operative Theos in Western Europe, including France, has never been the Abrahamic god, it has always been a Roman god as a transformation of the first god of the West, itself necessarily a Greek god. Only in this way could Western reality as such be structured in a fundamentally different manner than the reality of properly Abrahamic peoples. The Abrahamic god has never been more than a cover for the properly Western god, which remains hidden, although not all that well at this point.

Only insofar as that god remains operative are rationality, historicity and literalism possible structures of reality for Western Europeans and their descendants.

In any event, even the ostensible god of Christianity is by no means identical with the other Abrahamic religions, and so as the god of a small, oppressed minority, smashing representations of the Islamic god remains simple bullying of a powerless minority, consistent with the bigoted caricatures of Islamic people, that precisely assists in keeping the idolatry of the West sacrosanct.

In the Western European countries and others whose primary influence is that of Western Europe, reality is experienced as rational, literal and historical, in the sense of already fully constituted in what has been, and as such still present in a specific sense.  For this to be an idolatry, rather than a theology, the god that structures, founds such an experience of reality must itself be a false representation.  That all representations of god are false is not an insight unique to Abrahamic religion, but is intrinsic in the very notion of the god whose representation was substituted for it, and which substitution itself is the ground of reason, literalism and historicality.  The “golden calf” itself of the biblical story is a false representation of this god, not of the Abrahimic god, which demonstrates it as operative in a certain way for the biblical writers themselves.

As Fraser himself notes in another article, the Christian story is the story of god divesting himself of power.  In that article he asks “who would follow a powerless god?”  More urgently, though, who would raise up a powerless god as if it were not powerless?

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What is Poetic Thinking?

 

One of the most common observations regarding the Turn or “Kehre” in Heidegger’s thinking is that the earlier work is more “analytical” (though not in the sense of Analytical Philosophy) while the later work, after the Turn, is more “poetic”. While this is accurate (and to a large degree originating from Heidegger himself) the usual interpretation is not at all accurate. The reason for the change, insofar as it’s interpreted as a rational change, is usually part of the narrative of Heidegger’s supposed anti-technological reactionary bent. An example of this particular lack of understanding pervades narratives such as that of Brockelman, an example of the sort of commentary follows:

I would argue that this is a far more promising approach to critical theory than any philosophy (like Heidegger’s) which allows itself to entertain nostalgia for a pre-modern world or truth.

Brockelman, Thomas (2011-11-03). Zizek and Heidegger: The Question Concerning Techno-Capitalism (Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy) (p. 69). Continuum UK. Kindle Edition.

 

The second misunderstanding is that “poetic” (or sometimes “poietic”) thinking is less rigorous, vaguer than the earlier, more analytical thinking. The later thought is also usually acknowledged as more difficult, but this is ascribed to some sort of inherent obscurantism rather than a difficulty that originates in the reader. The question then as to the nature of the Turn itself becomes obscured behind a basic and almost complete misunderstanding of both the later and the earlier work. A more appropriate understanding of the nature of thinking, as “poetic” rather than rational, might help in comprehending Heidegger’s work as a whole, and understanding the nature of the change between the earlier and later works, and in what the Turn itself consists. The notion of Heidegger as reactionary is at odds with the evident situation that the more radical of later philosophers are precisely those influenced by Heidegger’s work. It is also at odds with the way the work was initially received. Intuitively, Heidegger’s readers have always experienced his work as radical in a much more basic way than the intuitive reaction to the work of “progressive” thinkers themselves, and particularly self-described “radical” thinkers.

The first difficulty for readers of Heidegger, which I would argue is perhaps more evident in the interpretation of the earlier work than the later work, comes from a lack of understanding of reason, generalized as it usually is from the activity of rational consciousness. The second difficulty is a lack of understanding of poetic or poietic thinking, and the relation of this thinking to past thinking. Heidegger’s later work, far from being an anti-technological flight into a nostalgia for the past, but precisely an attempt to respond to technology in an appropriate manner, and as such is itself technological, though in the sense of the other face of the Janus head of technology itself. As such, his own description of “thinking” as opposed to “philosophy”, as another beginning, is crucial to understanding both the earlier and the later work.

In order to understand rationality itself as a historical phenomenon, rather than begin with the culmination of the first beginning in Plato, it may be helpful to begin with the first culmination of the most extreme form of metaphysics, since it is in its most extreme form that its history becomes visible as such, in the work of Hegel. Hegel is the first culmination and simultaneously the first inversion of metaphysics, which as polymorphic, must in order to reach its completion, undergo a number of different, though intertwined, inversions. Each of the thinkers that lie between Hegel and Heidegger accomplished an inversion of metaphysics through different initial threads of the intertwining and self-reinforcing paths that constitute both the rationality of history and the history of rationality.

“Hegel says that the rationality of history “is not a presupposition of study; it is a result which [he adds without apology] happens to be known to myself because I already know the whole.””(Lischer, n.d.)

Firstly, the idea that Hegel has anything to apologize for in this statement betrays an unthinking response to thinking, famously expressed by Heidegger as “The most thought-provoking thing in this thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking. More urgent, though, is rectifying this by thinking with Hegel rather than against Hegel what is intended in such a statement. What does knowing “the whole” mean in terms of the “rationality of history”? What is intended by “happens to be known”? What is the “rationality of history” itself, specifically not as a presupposition? Finally, what is reason itself for Hegel, i.e. what does the end of rational history imply for rationality itself, or how is it that rationality, precisely as the end of rational history, becomes absolute as reason?

In terms of knowing “the whole” Hegel is referring to the situation that, for him specifically, history itself appears as complete. Complete, for Hegel, means that as development there is nothing further to be accomplished within rational history itself. That this is both a result and an event, that he “happens” to know it, is a result of an event. This event underlies the Phenomenology as a change in thinking, a change that itself had to undergo further changes, each of which resulted in a different understanding of the Phenomenology itself and its appropriate place. While a full description of this event is not available, we can place it as most likely occurring during the time Hegel spent with Holderlin. Some parallels with Heidegger’s Turn, including the proximity of poetry and thinking and the first beginning as a non-origin but a historical development that had already occurred, appear with a greater obviousness in the personal development of Hegel himself than in his works, where they were suppressed due to circumstances, particularly the circumstances of Holderlin’s “madness”, but more crucially due to the performative nature of the works themselves. At any rate, we can figuratively reconstruct the result of the event via its relation with Holderlin’s work both poetic and philosophical. In terms of a figurative reconstruction, the intertwining of certain images, figures, which appear in the thinking of both, should be sufficient.

One such figure is the “fluidity of the concept”, the initial figure of what has been translated into English as absolute
notion. Another is the figure of the “cosmic spirit”, which prefigures Hegel’s absolute notion of absolute spirit, and as such must also prefigure its development through rational history, i.e. it must predate history itself as the result of pre-rational thinking. Hegel’s stay with Holderlin crystallized the contents of the discussions that took place earlier at Tubingen between Hegel, Holderlin and Schelling, which received their first public figuration in the early work of the latter. This crystallization, though, was simultaneously fluid rather than fixed, and as such can be understood as structural. The initial thinking that reached its culmination in Hegel’s Logic was a projection, conceived as the construction of a mythology. What appears in these figures is a change in thinking that appears to mirror the change in Heidegger’s thinking, but in reverse. This appearance is itself deceptive, however, since the change in thinking for Hegel is itself a Janus head, but a different Janus head from that of Heidegger, who themselves in a certain sense thus form a Janus head. The change for Hegel is a change that projected rational history as the history of rationality. In passing, as well, the synchronicity of the time the three spent together at Tubingen and the invention of the factory ought to be noted, particularly in terms of understanding the relation between the thought of Hegel and that of Marx. The latter must itself be thought as another culmination of metaphysics, as the culmination of the history of rationality experienced as the rationality of history, the history of history itself and as an inversion of history and rationality. Marx, of course, viewed this history from the initial perspective of the history of economy as capitalism. The Phenomenology must be understood neither as simply didactic, in terms of a preparation for the thinking of absolute spirit as reason, nor simply as a description of the development of the psyche as the correlate in the individual of absolute spirit in community, but as a revelation of reason as the “self-organizing system of speculative knowledge”.

 

To modern ears, both the idea of a mythology as a construction, and hence structural, and the conception of history as a projection, sound perverse, and in need of a fuller exposition. In terms of mythos, and the specific mythology of the cosmic spirit, the figure of the cosmic spirit must itself be a figure that stands-in for mythos as the cosmic myth, and thus a change in mythos, an inversion of mythos that is the precondition for the beginning of history as rational. The rationality of history as a result, and thus the appearance of history as a whole, must be understood as a change from cosmic spirit that founds rationality as conscious experience. Rationality must not only be historical but must originate together with it as entangled and thus each must be understood from the other. In terms of rationality, history must be necessary, and vice versa. That history is teleological is based on this conception of history as a figurative projection. In terms of history, rationality must be historical, and thus ground history as necessary. As concepts that already determine the experience of consciousness as reality, both must originate in a change that, because it’s not isomorphic to what it changed from, is irreversible. Thus what preceded rational history and its founding must be neither. From a rational, historical perspective, that which preceded rational history must be misunderstood as a form of rational history that was not yet its proper form, yet was an isomorphic change. Only from outside that history can the first beginning be understood as such. This necessary misunderstanding corresponds to the misunderstanding of another beginning as isomorphic to rational history. The figure of cosmic spirit can stand-in for mythos as cosmic myth only insofar as it is the prefiguration of concept. It is only conceptually that rationality can determine conscious experience as reality, and the first culmination of the first beginning in the works of Plato must conceptually determine the conceptual itself, which must be already operative as determining conscious experience as reality, for Plato’s response to that conceptual determination as an unveiling of what determines reality, and must always have determined reality. As this “always must have” Plato must conceptualize the conceptual as the culmination of rational history, but as only the first culmination of the first beginning cannot unveil rationality or historicity as they are, which means in terms of each other. The conceptualization of the conceptual thus is determined as the Eternal Ideas. This conceptualization culminates the projection of rational history which, not conceived as a change, is projected both backwards and forwards as a history without change. This fixation is experienced by Plato as constant presence, which is understood as constantly already present and thus also having been the end of a construction must then be retroactively posited as having-been prior to the construction, as always-having-been, or eternal. This “already present” is itself experienced as the ideal past, thus what has been, and therefore is still in a sense present, rather than what was and has now passed away, what is known grammatically as the “past
perfect“.

 

This fixation itself, prefigured as cosmic spirit, must be a construction whose first appearance as having-been-constructed is cosmic spirit, thus mythology must be already known to be a construction. The retroactively posited construction of the cosmic myth first becomes constituted as cosmic spirit as already constructed. Rational history is founded, in the first beginning, non-rationally and ahistorically as a change from cosmic spirit, a change that confers a conscious experience of reality as rational and historical. Cosmic spirit itself must be a change from an experience of reality as fluid, and thus its fixation. As a prefiguring not only of Hegel but also of Heidegger, cosmic spirit is a retroactive positing of the first appearance of the last god, which is thus a transformation of the first god – Chaos as pure fluidity of primordial conscious experience, the fluidity of concept.

 

The metamorphosis from the pre-rational is simultaneously the beginning of history. In order to understand how they belong together, we need to start with a commonality between them, which is expressed in the concept of the “literal”. “Literal” in its modern meaning can be applied to both rationality, as a literal understanding, and history, as a literal interpretation of the historical record. In both senses we intend something like “direct”, and “as it is” rather than a story about how it is or an interpretation with a assumed direction, for instance, of “how it was”. This is not the original meaning though, in fact it contradicts the original meaning, which in a similar fashion to “literature” intended “a relation to the written word”. How did a meaning apparently opposite to the original become the common meaning? What was the intent of the word literal in the first instance? The clue as to what was intended can be found in the notion of the historical itself as a “record”. Records, of course, require record-keeping, and the most common early record-keeping found in early ‘literate’ (i.e. having a written form of language) societies are all records of trades, “bookkeeping”. It is in relation to bookkeeping that history initially arises. Reason, as the rational or measured consciousness, first means to measure as balancing the books of the historical record, accounting-for that record. The metaphor of the historical record (and the record of natural history) is thus predicated on bookkeeping as the primary source of records themselves. As records of what has-been, the records still are, therefore what has been can be accounted-for on their basis. In a specific sense, then, the present, as the accounting-for of what has been, includes the past, and thus reality is experienced as historical, and simultaneously as rational. Literal thus passed directly from intending simply a relation to the written word into a relation to reality determined by history, which is always tacitly assumed as known precisely through the records of bookkeepers. The care for exactness in rational thinking is a continuation of the trader’s need for precision in terms of keeping records of trades and accounting-for them accurately later. In this we can find the meaning of Heidegger’s statement that reason is the “stiff necked adversary of thought”.

 

We also find the rationality of history as the history of rationality, and the basis of their belonging-together. What, then, is reason for Hegel, insofar as the end of history must also entail some sort of end of rationality as understood to that point?

 

Reason, as notion, for Hegel is expressed as system. That Hegel’s system is not particularly systematic has been pointed out many times, as if this were some kind of flaw, but what is system itself? Hegel describes it most fully as the “self-organizing system of speculative knowledge”. This should strike us as odd relative to the usual modes of interpreting Hegel. The usual narrative describes some sort of egomaniacal system builder who believed he could systematically include everything. But
absolute, particularly in Hegel, never means total. Instead it means self-referential, self-contained.
And if the system is self-organizing it could not originate as Hegel’s doing. Self-organization is today a common term, adopted specifically from what is known as systems theory, Yet systems theory is not about the systematic, but the systemic, and self-organization is not about the arrangement of a form as a doing, but dynamic relations that themselves form a dynamic, fluid structure. Reason for Hegel is precisely this dynamic structure, and absolute spirit the dynamism that breathes life into it.

Since reason as system, then, could not be Hegel’s doing, we have firstly a closer relation to Hegel in terms of understanding the manner in which such a system had to be presented – not as the work of a specific man named Hegel, but as an absolute, because self-referential, system. Secondly, we have a closer understanding of how the initial understanding of reason as such a system had to “happen to” Hegel as a specific man. The universal as the self-organizing system of reason had to be embodied in a particular event occurring to a particular man in order to be actualized. This tension is itself part of the initial movement of Hegel’s thought as dialectical. As the end of metaphysics, and simultaneously its first inversion, reason could not, for Hegel, be equivalent to rationality insofar as the latter is purely metaphysical. Hegel’s Reason is the first image, figure, of another beginning, but not yet another beginning as such. The Phenomenology is both a revelation of understanding, understood as self-arising and reflexive, and an attempt to share such by provoking it.

 

For Heidegger, by contrast, in the effort of the attempt at “another beginning”, reason can be simply thought as rationality in the metaphysical sense. The figure of Hegel’s Reason, as outline, is already replaced by a fuller outline, itself disclosed not merely in an event but as event, Ereignis. Thinking, specifically poetic thinking, is the only appropriate response to the event, itself the appropriating event.

 

Insofar as Heidegger’s earlier work appears as more “analytical” the later work is already intended in it. Ereignis though can never be understood from the perspective of man as metaphysical. Ereignis cannot be properly even experienced as such from this perspective. Achieving a reflexive understanding of Dasein, as who “me is”, is an a priori task. It is this task, as preliminary, that the early work attempts.

 

The later work, beginning with vom Ereignis, although not understood as beginning there until later due to Heidegger’s temporary suppression of that book, is thus a prolonged effort at another beginning, prompted by Ereignis as appropriating, and thus revelatory, event. This poetic thinking is at the same time intertwined with a different thread than the economic thread of metaphysics, a technological thread.

 

Heidegger’s thinking on technology can itself be understood as a technological thinking. The raw material of philosophy itself, its key terms and stances, become interminably exchangeable for one another. The history of technology is thus also the essence of technology, which is at the same time the essence of history. But we appear to be involved in a contradiction. How can technology be the essence of history, if history is already seen as rational and therefore essentially as accounting-for? In Heidegger’s thinking of technology as technological and simultaneously poetic, there is a key figuration of technology left unremarked, just as the last god remains unnamed, unidentified. “The essence of technology is nothing technological.” But the key aspect of the technological is precisely that it can stand-in for the essence. It is in this ability (and the inadequacy thus revealed) that technological things always reveal own replacement that provides the developmental notion of history as progress, and does so progressively. Simultaneously, the notion of history as development has its roots in this unacknowledged aspect of the technological itself. If history as rational is based on accounting-for the record of trades, what technology itself is necessarily involved? Writing is a technical skill, and can be seen as an enabling technology for recording values of trades, but the values themselves recorded could not be merely arbitrary measures, or no balancing of books would be possible. Factically multiple currencies were in play at that time, minted by the various city states, thus what made a non-relative measure (at least insofar as what it was related directly to, namely gold, was tacitly assumed to be absolute) was the technology of the touchstone. This technology enabled exchange via currency, and the exchange of currency itself for other currency. With this system exchange as barter, always the exchange of something specific for something else specific, was itself exchanged for an exchange of any for any, and as such the touchstone is both a simple, specific technology, yet it reveals the essence of technology itself, as interminable exchange, and also reveals its own inadequacy in terms of valuing, that it values by reference to gold, and thus if gold itself were valued, creates a circularity that destabilizes the apparently stable valuation of currency, that then provides the ability to account-for an arbitrary number of trades at a future point. The entirety of the modern financial system is merely a transformation of currency, made apparently trustworthy by the touchstone, and thus itself an exchange. Thus in the account of history itself as rational, accounting-for can be exchanged for what made such accounting relatively reliable, which is technology.

 

This exchange, though, is itself figurative. Figurative language is itself associated with poetry, and thus bears a relation to poetic thinking. If exactness as the goal of rationality originates with reason itself as at root accounting, then the lack of exactness in poetic thinking is not accidental, exactness in rationality was itself exchanged for a different type of rigor. Yet Heidegger’s poetic thinking, or Hegel’s system of self-organizing speculative knowledge, must be new in some sense, not merely a return to the non-rational that preceded history and rationality themselves. Otherwise it would hardly count as another beginning.

 

The reflexivity of Hegel’s self-organizing system is a clue to understanding in what way “poetic thinking” is not the same as the “mythical thinking” of man as pre-rational. The pre-rational did not experience thinking as poetic. Nor did it experience thinking as literal, since the notion of literal could only arise with and intertwined with history and rationality. Precisely how the pre-rational experienced itself is not fully possible to understand, since the figure of the figurative was not part of the figuration. This figure of the poetic as an outline, a guide, is precisely the figure of the figurative, reflexively included in the figuration of the figure. The revelation of revelation itself as an understanding of understanding always based on the figure, the image, the metaphor, is itself experienced figuratively, something only possible from out of rational understanding. Simultaneously the figure, image, metaphor is experienced figuratively in the figure of exchange, every figurative thinking of something operates itself via exchange with what is figured. As exchange, then, the last god in its first appearance is Janus, which can also be figured as currency.

 

Thus poetic thinking is neither arbitrary in terms of another beginning, nor does the deprecation of exactness equal a lack of rigor. Poetic thinking is thinking per se, not rationalizing in terms of a constant measuring of one’s thought, but a dynamic, living thinking. At the same time rational subjectivity first provides the reflexivity that is completed in a further reflexive thinking of thinking, the thinking awareness of thinking in terms of content and process, which allows for self-critique. This critique is not less operative than in rationality, but more so due to the additional recursion involved in generating the additional reflexivity. Poetic thinking is a new thinking, based on a further understanding of figurative thinking as the basis of both pre-rational experience and rationality made possible by the rational itself and its limitations. These limitations are properly experienced as such from poetic thinking itself, a thinking made possible by the reflexive revelation of Ereignis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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“What is Not Forbidden is Mandatory”

The title is specifically not a philosophical or even a moral injunction, but a precept of modern physics.

Seven Essential Elements of Quantum Physics

Consider, then, the correlation to the following quote:

“The pre-Copernican image of the cosmos familiar to us from medieval maps pictures the “universe” opened by the fundamental fantasy, wherein guilt is interpreted as resulting from our transgression of a lawful order. Thus, such maps take the heterogeneity of the divine subject and give it a “place.” Indeed, “place” is vital here in a couple ways: on the one hand, the medieval cosmos suggests, in the Thomistic or Neo-Platonic “Chain of Being” theories, that every being “has a place ” within it. As Žižek puts it, the fundamental fantasy “provides a sense of ontological ‘safety’, of dwelling within a self-enclosed finite circle of meaning where things (natural phenomena) in a way ‘speak to us’, address us” (Žižek 1997, p. 160). On the other hand, of course, there is the divine place, the “Empyrean Heaven” which, appropriately, occupies the “highest” and outermost circle of being in medieval maps. This is, of course, the place of places; for it implies a position from which God can overview all of being, from which he can, in fact, constitute it as a whole.

Instead, nature itself is reconceived from an immanently totalizing perspective.  First, we conceive of all being as subsisting in a single plane, a plane of material causes. But then we add to that thesis a closure of the material dimension: all effects are already contained in their causes, so that the end of the universe is already implicit in the first events occurring within it. We are faced with a reductive causal determinism, a determinism without the possibility of freedom (See, Žižek 1999b, p. 26). Paraphrasing Hegel, Žižek writes “teleology is the truth of mechanical causality” (Žižek 2004, p. 113). Is not such totalization of nature the almost invariable accompaniment of all early-modern, all “mechanistic” science?

Here we can introduce the theological trope that emerged almost as soon as the perspectival metaphor established itself in the fifteenth century – the location of the divine at the confluence of all “viewpoints” constituting perspectival space. For, it turns out that modernity opens a second possible “position” from which reality may be constituted. Recall the philosophical view first articulated by Nicholas of Cusa, but reflected in Bruno, Leibniz and Newton. This argument starts in a radical de-centering of the medieval, cosmological, worldview. Space is projected as an infinite and homogeneous field amenable to purely quantitative understanding. Where in such a universe is God – still the “subject” for philosophy until Descartes? A universe without center can allow no places “nearer” or farther from him: nor (which is really the same thing) can it admit the image of a God out “beyond” space.  Cusanus’ solution is to conceive God as present at every point, every position, but only insofar as any such point is conceived as viewpoint. In Newton’s famous phrase, the universe is God’s “sensorium.” In other words, the subject is in every place qua viewpoint.  “Other space” of this fantasy, then, consists of the infinite (but complete) set of all points within objective space. It’s the same space in which we live but now conceived as a web of subject points. There is, and can be , no distinguishing characteristic of such a space, since it is the very same space as the one we inhabit, but it is, nonetheless, functionally distinct from objective space. Thus, we get a sense of uncanny “closeness” to us, typical of a paranoid psychical economy.

What happens when the “object,” the place of the superego, is occupied by the very “excess” of being that guilt intended to tame? This is in fact the strange condition controlling our reality today, the condition under which totality emerges as that strange, excessive thing, “life”: “Are we really living?” we ask. Have we really “given our all?” or “enjoyed ourselves?” These Romantic questions begin to haunt humanity, to provide, ironically, the nexus of guilt (“ I have not really lived, given my all, enjoyed, etc.” ), precisely at that moment, at the end of the Enlightenment , when the old institutions and specific demands of the Law fall. Less and less are persons tortured by guilt at moral transgression: at an ever accelerating pace our guilt now becomes performance-guilt about life, guilt that transforms life into a vague totality wielded by Lacan, Žižek and, Todd McGowan, “enjoyment.” McGowan has recently hypothesized that increasingly since the nineteenth century we have become a “society of enjoyment,” a society in which the commandment to “enjoy!” has largely displaced traditional moral imperatives. In other words, the society of enjoyment or, as McGowan specifies it, “the society of commanded enjoyment,” is the visible symptom of the paranoid fundamental fantasy, the way that the “belief” in the big Other continues when we consciously claim to disavow it.  Guilt and anxiety – the weapons of the superego – still operate, but they do so by torturing us for not enjoying ourselves, not being “really alive” in response to the direct enjoyment of the Other. And it is in this sense of a disavowed belief in the Other that we are justified in following Žižek’s lead in finding the predominant master signifier of our world in perversion.”

Brockelman, Thomas (2011-11-03). Zizek and Heidegger: The Question Concerning Techno-Capitalism (Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy) Continuum UK. Kindle Edition.

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