Bad Versions, p.s., Abstraction

I appreciated the reading and comments of my previous post, and wanted to respond a bit more formally — though also perhaps too tangentially. The operation that my criticism tried to indicate is one that often seems to be associated with the need for and power of abstraction. For my part, I don’t have any a priori complaint about abstraction. In many ways, I think it’s central and essential. The question, though, is that of how abstraction is articulated, or even spatialized.

In the operation I was criticizing, abstraction tends to serve as something like a common space, one that is, at least in the last instance, able to remain exterior to the differences that intractably appear, or that appear to be intractable. The demand for emancipation has a normativity or universality that — regardless of how this demand has been misused or perverted or functioned for domination, etc. — is, in the last instance or in its essence, capable of (and necessary for) resisting or overcoming these differentiated modes of domination. This, in any case, is how the operation seems to work. And abstraction is then the means by which this essential value of normativity or universality is indicated or expressed. In other words, regardless of the variegated differentiations that embed and/or are embedded by domination, there remains the capacity of abstraction, understood here as the capacity for the differentiated to encounter one another in a manner that is ultimately or in principle free of the determinative differentiations. Continue reading “Bad Versions, p.s., Abstraction”

Bad Versions

Observing the contemporary theoretical terrain, there’s a certain operation that I find rather striking — both in its valorization and in its predominance. We might call this an operation of resuscitation, revival, or rejuvenation (though, for my own reasons, I would call it — or at least locate it within a field of — conversion). This operation is one in which a term, or point of reference, that appears to have become outmoded is taken up and (re)valorized. I imagine that there are a number of instances of such terms, but the ones that jump out to me most immediately include “universalism,” “normativity,” and “Hegel.” While there may be various differences between the specific versions of such revalorizations, I am interested in an overarching commonality among them. This commonality, once again, is operational: the revalorized term is advanced in connection with a readiness to turn aside critiques of the term as belonging only to the “bad version” of the term, but not to the revalorized term. In other words, the operation goes something like this: “of course I understand that you have a deeply critical relation to ‘universalism / normativity / Hegel,’ and you are absolutely right to maintain such a relation — provided that you come to realize that this critical relation belongs to the bad version of ‘universalism / normativity / Hegel,’ and thus not to my revalorized version of this term.” (Shorter versions of this include “trust that your problems have been recognized and — at least in principle — overcome” and “Dad is not so bad.”) Continue reading “Bad Versions”

Is “Non” Baseless? (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)

Given a book such as this, which does so much so well, to approach a response by way of summation or comprehension is to risk binding oneself to cliché or dilution. Better, perhaps, to just pick up one of the singular insights with which the book is littered. One of these insights is embedded in Smith’s analysis of Quentin Meillassoux’s critical reading of François Laruelle. Following Smith’s own incisive account, the point of this analysis is not to start another intra-philosophical war, now between Meillassoux and Laruelle. It is rather to give attention to, or to study, what it is about Laruelle’s thought that remains unthinkable by philosophy, or by the sort of work named and called for by philosophy. This is to say that Meillassoux’s misreading of Laruelle, and the critique that depends upon this misreading, can be taken as an indication of the incommensurability between standard philosophical practice and the practice of thought that is at issue under the name “Laruelle.” Continue reading “Is “Non” Baseless? (A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature Book Event)”

Living Thought Book Event: Absence of Origin / Absence of Another Option

Esposito’s Living Thought is an excellent book. My own experience of reading it was shaped by its themes of life, antagonism, and genealogy (of the origin). Esposito’s discussion of these themes also pushed me to think further along certain lines, which I try to set out below.

Absence of Origin

The predominant relation in what Esposito calls “Italian thought” is the one between history and origin. Even as history advances beyond an origin and bears a determinacy inconceivable from the point of the origin, this origin does not disappear into the past but instead becomes something inseparable from the “actuality” of history. Hence Esposito, when speaking of Vico, is able to speak of how “the origin is not dissolved in history, just as history is not reduced to time” (26). And such a logic has to do not just with Vico but also with “an element that runs through all Italian philosophy,” namely this: “At the bottom of history there lies an opaque, seminatural, historically intractable element that human beings must come to terms with the moment their gaze turns toward the future, imagining that they can liberate themselves, along with the entire past, even from the uncertain point of its provenance” (27). In other words, one of the essential skills of Italian philosophy, “distinguishing it from other traditions of thought” (27), is precisely this attentiveness to the entanglement of history and origin, doubling each other and thus undermining any pretension that would reduce one to the other.

At times, however, this relation between history and origin recedes in favor of another one, between history and life. This raises, for me, a question about the nature of the relation between these relations, or between the three terms at stake: history, origin, and life. The issue seems particularly pressing in one articulation of the second relation, where Esposito speaks of “the ontological difference between history and life” (170). How should we think of this difference? And what does it mean that this difference—however we think of it—is already cast in terms of being? Continue reading Living Thought Book Event: Absence of Origin / Absence of Another Option”

Experimental Life and Ordeal’s Necessity

“How would the eschatological ethos of a transformed people be, per impossible, the ‘lived reality’ of immanence?” (25)

“Some kind of mediation may play a genuinely constitutive role in [Deleuze’s] system, even if the redemptive function of such mediators is not something Deleuze explicitly theorizes. … those who belong to this series of humorous avatars would index the contours of viable experimental life.” (215)

There is no such thing as a philosophy without a practice of reading. This is to say not only that philosophies, in being received, are bound to a reading practice, but also that philosophies themselves, insofar as they are produced, have reading practices as part of their causal nexus. This may be obvious, but it is something worth reflecting on given that our image of thought—where this thought is imagined as being philosophical—tends not to include reading practices. Or, at the very least, it tends not to include reading practices in the way that other images tend to include them. Consider, for instance, the differentiation of philosophy and religion: it is much easier to imagine religion as including reading practices than it is to imagine philosophy as including them. I would even venture that part of the reason for the occlusion of the constitutive role of reading practices in philosophy has to do with philosophy’s interest in differentiating itself from religion. Continue reading “Experimental Life and Ordeal’s Necessity”

Analogical Expansion and Differential Space: Thoughts on Michael Naas’ Miracle and Machine

One cannot affirm difference without affirming the differential undecidability (Derrida), or crack (Deleuze), or nonidentity (Adorno), of / between affirmation and its failure. This is a thought that has possessed me for awhile now, and has sent me in a number of directions. What I took to be a kind of protectionism, in Derrida, against the productive character of alterity pushed me in a more Deleuzian direction. Such, it seemed, was what the affirmation of difference demanded, and yet to make difference into an affirmation seemed, simultaneously, to subsume difference under a new identity. Thus it was important for me to articulate that the same affirmation was nonidentical with senselessness and melancholy. This, it became clear, was a question of political ontology—namely, one of the relation between political potentiality and ontological difference. But what, many have asked, about political theology? An insidious question, perhaps, as this allows us to skirt the notion of “religion.” And so religion appeared as the vanishing mediator of differential ontology and political creativity. Continue reading “Analogical Expansion and Differential Space: Thoughts on Michael Naas’ Miracle and Machine

Jennings Book Event – Righteousness of the Flesh or Paul?

A non-homophobic Christianity. Let’s note, first of all, what this is not. It is not Christian homphilia. I understand that Jennings has elsewhere demonstrated the basis for a Christian homophilia—and if that work is anything like the work found in Plato or Paul?, it is no doubt successful. That said, I want to stick to the frame of this excellent book, which is to stick to the question of speaking about Christianity as not homophobic. It is not, Jennings powerfully argues. But homophobia is here, and its carrier has no doubt been Christianity … and so blame must be apportioned for the rise and development of homophobia that Christianity—even if it has not originally produced—has aided and abetted. Who’s to blame? Plato (and some others). I want to ask, then, what it means to apportion blame to the others of Christianity. Continue reading “Jennings Book Event – Righteousness of the Flesh or Paul?”