Eduardo Viveiros de Castro “Politique des multiplicités”

January 11, 2022 Leave a comment

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo 2019. Politique des multiplicités : Pierre Clastres face à l’État. Trad. Julien Pallotta. Éditions Dehors.

[…] Clastres discernait, dans les sociétés « primitives » […], un double contre-contrôle, ou méta-contrôle : le contrôle politique de l’économie d’un côté – régime de suffisance sous-productive, blocage de l’accumulation par la redistribution forcée ou par la dilapidation rituelle –, et le contrôle social du politique d’un autre côté – séparation entre chefferie et pouvoir, soumission du guerrier à l’impératif suicidaire de gloire. La société primitive comme système immunologique : la mobilisation guerrière au service de l’intégrité sociologique, le contrôle de la tentation du contrôle. Les Recherches d’anthropologie politique sont un Contre Hobbes – la guerre y continue de s’opposer à l’État, mais avec cette différence cruciale que la socialité est du côté de la guerre, non du souverain, lequel apparait au contraire comme quasi-nature –, mais c’est peut-être davantage un Anti-Engels, un manifeste contre le continuisme nécessitariste de l’histoire. (23-24)

L’altérité et la multiplicité définissent en même temps la manière d’après laquelle l’anthropologie constitue une relation avec son objet et celle d’après laquelle son objet s’autoconstitue. « Société primitive » ou « contre l’État » est le nom que Clastres a donné à son objet, et à sa propre rencontre avec la multiplicité. (26)

Et si l’État a toujours existé, comme l’ont soutenu Deleuze et Guattari, alors la société primitive existera aussi toujours : comme extérieur immanent de l’État, force d’antiproduction toujours menaçant les forces productives, multiplicité non intériorisable par les grandes machines mondiales. « Société primitive », en résumé, est une des multiples incarnations conceptuelles de l’éternelle thèse de gauche qu’un autre monde est possible : qu’il y a de la vie hors du capitalisme, comme il y a de la socialité hors de l’État. Il y en a toujours eu, et – c’est pour cela que nous luttons – il continuera toujours d’y en avoir. (26)

Le projet de Clastres était de transformer l’anthropologie « sociale » ou « culturelle » en anthropologie politique, au double sens d’une anthropologie qui considère le pouvoir (et non pas la « domination », l’«exploitation », ou le « conflit ») comme immanent à la vie sociale, et, plus important, qui soit capable de prendre au sérieux l’altérité radicale des peuples dits primitifs, ce qui impliquait avant toute chose la pleine reconnaissance de leur auto-invention et de leur auto-réflexion. (38)

Le projet de Clastres fait partie de ceux qui conçoivent le travail de l’anthropologie comme celui d’une élucidation des conditions d’autodétermination ontologique des autres (peuples, sociétés, civilisations), ce qui signifie, entre autres choses, lui reconnaitre une consistance sociopolitique propre, et, pour cette raison, impossible à transposer dans notre monde comme s’il était la recette oubliée depuis longtemps du bonheur universel. Le « primitivisme » clastrien n’était pas une plateforme politique pour l’Occident. (43)

Dans le cas de Clastres, le constat de notre dépendance constitutive, sur le plan de la pensée elle-même, à l’égard de la forme-État ne doit pas empêcher la perception de toutes les intensités contraires, les fentes, les brèches, et les lignes de fuite par lesquelles notre société résiste en permanence à sa capture par la transcendance surcodante de l’État. C’est en ce sens que la « société contre l’État » reste valide comme concept universel – non comme idéal-type ou comme désignateur rigide d’une espèce sociologique, mais comme analyseur de n’importe quelle expérience de vie collective. (49)

La société primitive de Clastres […] est contre l’État, et donc contre la « société » conçue à son image. Elle prend la forme d’une multiplicité asubjective, ses composants ou associés ne sont pas des individualités ou des subjectivités, mais des singularités – elle ignore la machine abstraite productrice de sujets, visages ou expressions qui manifeste une intériorité subjective. (57)

Pierre Clastres est habituellement considéré comme l’anthropologue d’une seule note, défenseur d’une thèse monolithique, la « société-contre-l’État ». Remarquons en passant que cette forme d’organisation de la vie collective est, en fait, définie par l’auteur par une double relation d’inhibition : l’une interne ou intracommunautaire, la chefferie sans pouvoir, et l’autre externe ou intercommunautaire, le dispositif centrifuge de la guerre. (67)

Car il existe bien un « mode d’être » très caractéristique de ce qu’il a appelé « société primitive » […]. Ce mode d’être est « essentiellement » une politique de la multiplicité ; Clastres peut s’être trompé en l’interprétant (ce n’est pas clair qu’il l’ait fait) comme si elle devait partout s’exprimer comme multiplicité « politique », c’est-à-dire comme une forme institutionnelle d’auto-représentation collective. La politique de la multiplicité est un mode de devenir avant d’être un mode d’être (d’où son caractère fuyant) ; elle est effectivement instituée ou institutionnalisée dans certains contextes ethno-historiques, mais ne dépend pas de son passage à un état molaire pour fonctionner – c’est même plutôt le contraire. Ce mode précède sa propre institution, et persiste dans son état moléculaire original (ou y retourne) dans beaucoup d’autres contextes, y compris – et surtout – des contextes non primitifs. Société-contre-l’État, en somme, est un concept qui désigne un régime d’intensité ou un fonctionnement virtuel omniprésent, dont il revient à l’anthropologie de déterminer empiriquement ses conditions variable d’extensivisation et d’actualisation. (90)

C’est la figure instable et indispensable de l’allié politique qui empêche aussi bien une « réciprocité généralisée » (la fusion des communautés en une unité sociologique supérieure) qu’une guerre généralisée (l’atomisation suicidaire du socius). Le vrai centre de la société, cet ensemble fluide de groupes locaux jaloux de leur autonomie, est toujours extra-local, étant situé en tout point où la conversion entre l’intérieur et extérieur est possible ou pensable. C’est pourquoi la « totalité » et l’« indivision » de la communauté primitive, sur laquelle Clastres insiste tant, ne contredisent pas la dispersion et la multiplicité de la société primitive, c’est plutôt le contraire. Le caractère de totalité signifie que la communauté ne faisait partie d’aucun autre Tout hiérarchiquement supérieur ; le caractère d’indivision signifie qu’elle n’est pas non plus hiérarchisée de manière interne, divisée en parties qui forment un Tout supérieur. Totalité soustractive, indivision négative. Absence de distinction localisable entre un dedans et un dehors. Multiplication du multiple. (96)

Il n’est plus question d’opposer la paix interne à la guerre externe, le convivialisme des semblables à l’exclusion des différents : « L’absence d’une plus grande stabilisation du pouvoir politique ne résulte pas d’un consensus sur un désir commun de liberté, mais d’un constant dissensus et de l’absence de la notion de « bien commun ». » [Marina Vanzolini Figueiredo, Eleicoes na aldeia ou, o Alto Xingu contra o Estado ?, p. 33] Le chef sans pouvoir est un chef non représentatif – car nous sommes hors du monde de la représentation. Disparait toute lecture convivialiste de la société-contre-l’État. Une image de nous-mêmes où nous ne nous reconnaissons pas. Tout au moins dans l’idéal. (103)

Soo Hwan Kim “Lotmanian explosion: From peripheral space to dislocated time”

November 8, 2021 Leave a comment

Kim, Soo Hwan 2014. Lotmanian explosion: From peripheral space to dislocated time. Sign Systems Studies 42(1): 7-30.

Lotman’s model of cultural history can be considered the most typical case of applying the paradigm of centre-periphery switch to analysis of concrete historical texts. Paradoxically, it is also at that very point, however, that a fatal problem of this paradigm is found. As is well known, Lotman presents the binary model as the deep structure running through the entire history of Russian culture. However, what is the actual impression left, by this model, which is characterized by radical severance and switch? It is a certain kind of repetition that is firmly maintained (despite all superficial changes). In fact, all of Lotman’s analyses are devoted to proving only a single proposition: it is the fact that Russian cultural history, “represented by radical ‘severance’, in fact has been constructed according to an ‘inverted’ structural model of the old culture, or that a subjective orientation toward the ‘new’ paradoxically has played the role of a generator of the ‘old’.”4 In other words, according to Lotman’s analysis, the development process of Russian cultural history is but the transformed infinite repetition of the initial archetypal model (of the dichotomy of orthodox vs. heresy). (12-13)

This point, at which doubts are raised concerning whether the process of the dynamic switching of the centre and the periphery is not in fact but a repetition (of the deep structure), presents a serious problem in relation to the theoretical actuality of the centre-periphery model. What is problematic above all is the danger of repetition inherent in the centre-periphery model. (13)

Here, “cyclical processes” refer to what is repetitive and reversible and therefore easily transformable into topological concepts. On the contrary, “irreversible processes”, which take on a clearly temporal nature, invariably presuppose emergent occasions that cannot be explained within the centre-periphery switch model. To explain processes of creative transformation and generation that cannot be reduced to algorithms of repetition, a different, new model is necessary. In other words, a new viewpoint that can conceptualize the fundamental difference, not repetition, is demanded. (14)

The first method for thinking about the dynamics of the centre-periphery model as an occasion for creation that transcended repetition was to reestablish anew the concept of the “boundary” dividing the inside and the outside of the system. (15)

[…] Lotman proposes a concept of the boundary that, instead of separating the inside and the outside of the system, is a kind of “bilingual belt” that stands between and connects the two realms. Combining rather than separating, this boundary can never be drawn in a single, clear-cut line. That boundary is rather a complex and multidimensional space and, being the hottest spot in the semiotic process, cannot but take on the nature of a “bilingual belt”. The boundary of a semiosphere always belongs to two cultures with connected frontiers, to two adjacent semiospheres, and, in this respect, is essentially “bilingual and multilingual” (Lotman 1990: 137). (16)

What is important is that such a mechanism of translation, which operates in the in-between areas of the system, as a matter of course cannot be a (possibility of) perfect translation through a metastructure. Rather, it is “translation of the untranslatable”, or the process of creating arduous and inaccurate translations, which cannot but presuppose remnants of untranslated surpluses. As this is the case, semiotic actions that are generated in such a bilingual belt, in principle, cannot but be “oxymoronic”. The borderland as a bilingual belt is a space of exceptional duality that simultaneously is me (mine) and others (others’), yet perhaps is neither. (16)

The premise for this type of approach is that “the inner development of culture is impossible without an incessant inflow of an external/outer-text”. Such “externality” that involves a foreign/alien/strange text introduced from the tradition of a different nation or other culture is essential to culture. (18)

[…] dialogic periphery, in which the encounter with the other occurs, is the place where the proper always turns out to be already improper and vice versa, where ‘our language’ becomes ‘someone else’s language’, and ‘someone else’s language’ our own. (19) 

If the concept of the ‘(bilingual) boundary’ examined above refers to a space of ‘indeterminacy’ that exists between the centre and the periphery, explosion signifies an interval of a kind of ‘unpredictability’ that spreads out between the past and the future. (19)

Also, just as the concept of the boundary had to secure an occasion for generation that transcended simple repetition (through replacement) by suspending, however momentarily, the action force of the centralizing power, the time of explosion must secure the possibility of ‘dislocation’, which deviates, however momentarily, from the chain of historical causality linked from the past to the future. (20)

The essential difference that lies between the movement of the physical world and the historical process of humanity is that, in the case of the latter, conscious acts by humans, or free choices of thinking beings, intervene. In other words, “in the case of objects possessing intellectual abilities, acts at the bifurcation point take on the nature not of simple randomness but of conscious choice” (Lotman 2000d: 645). (21)

For example, what is the most common misunderstanding of Lotman’s concept of explosion? It is to understand explosion as the occurrence of a certain kind of single revolutionary event. Rather than referring to the occurrence of sudden severance that dramatically changes the existing situation, explosion signifies the (sudden) initiation of certain conditions that make such an occurrence possible. The essence of this concept lies in the fact that, at the moment of explosion, the general flow of history as a single linear process is (temporally) stopped and that, as a result, the law of causality that oversees the flow can no longer be applied (that is, suspended). Therein lies the reason that explosion must be understood not as the occurrence of a revolutionary event but as the sudden opening of certain conditions for unpredictable events. (22)

The essence of the concept of explosion lies, so to speak, not in the stoppage of the continuous flow of time, but in its sudden rupture, more precisely its escape from it, or in a word, dislocation. The temporality of explosion is none other than dislocated temporality. According to Lotman, “the moment [of explosion] is experienced outside of time, even if, in reality, it stretches across a very wide temporal space” (Lotman 2000a: 136). (22)

Then why is it so crucial to understand such extra-temporal nature of explosion? It is because none other than this model of dislocated temporality serves as the final breakthrough for overcoming the theoretical deadlock that Lotman faced early on: how to overcome the danger of repetition inherent in the topological model, or the danger of simply switching places through the subversion of the hierarchy? (23)

The heart of dislocated temporality lies not in bringing the excluded periphery into the centre but in opening up moments of exceptional indeterminacy for the advent of true otherness that is utterly unpredictable (and therefore seen as impossible) from the viewpoint of the previous period. It is a concept that refers to the desire to overcome the infamous binary model that runs throughout the history of Russian culture, to an orientation toward the experience of an entirely heterogeneous temporality, different from the dominant temporality leading from the past to the future. (23)

In other words, it can be seen as a state in which it is impossible to assign an already determined meaning to things that are taking place at present and will take place in the future. Here, there is no norm, code, or principle that can determine the meaning and meaninglessness of an event in advance. In other words, it belongs to a dimension that differs from the continuous process that develops in time. Since it is inappropriate for the continuity of the historical process, it cannot be represented in its entirety within the temporality of continuous processes. In this very respect, the most appropriate expression for the temporality of explosion is “dislocated temporality”, or temporality that has become disjointed from the general flow of time. (23)

The subsequent fate of the system depends not on random events only, but also on conscious choice, which entails responsibility. As pointed out above, the problem of personal responsibility and ethics before the bifurcation point mentioned by Lotman can be linked to Derrida’s messianic apprehension. In other words, the ethical responsibility entailed by choice, the maximum of its weight is an invariable share entailed by the space and time of unpredictable indeterminateness. (25)

Gilles Deleuze “Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation”

November 4, 2021 Leave a comment

Deleuze, Gilles 2003[1981]. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. London; New York: Continuum.

In fact, i t would be a mistake to think that the painter works on a white and virgin surface. The entire surface is already invested virtually with all kinds of cliches, which the painter will have to break with. This is exactly what Bacon says when he speaks of the photograph : it is not a figuration of what one sees, it is what modern man sees.2 I t is dangerous not simply because it is figurative, but because it claims to reign over vision, and thus to reign over painting. (11)

In many paintings, the field is caught up in a movement that forms it into a cylinder: it curls around the contour, around the place; and it envelops and imprisons t h e Figure. The material structure curls around the contour in order to imprison the Figure, which accompanies the movement of all the s tructure’s forces. It is the extreme solitude of the Figures, the extreme confinement of the bodies, which excludes every spectator: the Figure becomes a Figure only through this movement which confines it and in which it confines itself. (14)

But the other movement, which obviously coexists with the first, is on the contrary the movement of the Figure toward the material structure, toward the field of color. From the start, the Figure has been a body, and the body has a place within the enclosure of the round area. But the body is not simply waiting for something from the structure, it is waiting for something inside itself, it exerts an effort upon itself in order to become a Figure. Now it is inside the body that something is happening; the body is the source of movement. This is no longer the problem of the place, but rather of the event. If there is an effort, and an intense effort, it is in no way an extraordinary effort, as if it were a matter of undertaking something above and beyond the strength of the body and directed toward a separate object. The body exerts itself in a very precise manner, or waits to escape from itself in a very precise manner. It is not I who attempt to escape from my body, it is the body that attempts to escape from itself by means of . . . . in short, a spasm: the body as plexus, and its effort or waiting for a spasm. (15)

There is one painting that can guide us, the Figure at a Washbasin of 1976 [801: clinging to the oval oI’ the washbasin, its hands clutching the faucets, the body-Figure exerts an intense motionless effort upon itself in order to escape down the blackness of the drain. (15)

The standard formula, “To pass through the eye of a needle,” trivializes this abomination or Destiny. It is a scene of hysteria. The entire series of spasms in Bacon is of this type: scenes of love, of vomiting and excreting [73], in which the body attempts to escape from itself through one of its organs in order to rejoin the field or material structure. (16)

And the scream, Bacon’s scream, is the operation through which the entire body escapes through the mouth [6] . All the pressures of the body . . . . (16)

This is the second direction of the exchange, and the second form of a derisory athletics. The contour thus assumes a new function, since it no longer lies flat, but outlines a hollow volume and has a vanishing point. (17)

But in both these cases, the umbrella and the washbasin as much as the mirror, the Figure is no longer simply isolated but deformed; sometimes contracted and aspirated, sometimes stretched and dilated. This is because the movement is no longer that of the material structure curling around the Figure; it is the movement of the Figure going toward the structure and which, at the limit, tends to dissipate into the fields of color. The Figure is not simply the isolated body, but also the deformed body that escapes from itself. What makes deformation a destiny is that the body has a necessary relationship with the material structure: not only does the material structure curl around it, but the body must return to the material structure and dissipate into i t, thereby passing through or into these prostheses-instruments, which constitute passages and states that are real, physical, and effective, and which are sensations and not imaginings. (18-19)

Bacon is a painter of heads, not faces, and there is a great difference between the two. For the face is a structured , spatial organization that conceals the head , whereas the head is dependent upon the body, even if it is the point of the body, its culmination. It is not that the head lacks spirit; but i t is a spirit i n bodily form, a corporeal and vital breath, an animal spirit. (20)

Meat is the state of the body in which flesh and bone confront each other locally rather than being composed structurally. The same is true of the mouth and the teeth, which are little bones. In meat, the flesh seems to descend from the bones, while the bones rise up from the flesh. (22)

Well beyond the apparent sadism, the bones are like a trapeze apparatus ( the carcass) upon which the flesh is the acrobat. (23)

[…] it is important to understand the affinity of the mouth, and the interior of the mouth, with meat, and to reach the point where the open mouth becomes nothing more than the section of a severed artery, or even a jacket sleeve that is equivalent to an artery, as in the bloodied pillow i n the Sweeney Agonistes triptych [46] . The mouth then acquires this power of nonlocalization that turns all meat into a head without a face. I t is no longer a particular organ, but the hole through which the entire body escapes, and from which the flesh descends ( here the method of free, involuntary marks will be necessary) . This is what Bacon calls the Scream, in the immense pity that the meat evokes. (26)

The entire body escapes through the screaming mouth. The body escapes through the round mouth of the Pope or the nurse, as if through an artery [ 1 6 , 24] . According to Bacon, however, this is not the last word in the series of mouths. Bacon suggests that beyond the scream there is the smile, to which, he says, he has not yet been able to gain access.2 Bacon is certainly being modest; in fact, he has painted smiles that are among the most beautiful in painting, and which fulfill the strangest function, namely, that of securing the disappearance of the body. Bacon and Lewis Carroll meet on this single point: the smile of a cat.3 There is already a disquieting and disappearing smile in the head of the man underneath the umbrella in the Painting of 1 946 [3] , and the face is dismantled in favor of this smile, as if there were an acid eating away at the body; and the second version of the same man accentuates and straightens the smile [65 ] . Furthermore, there is the scoffing, almost untenable, and insupportable smile of the 1 954 Pope [ 1 9] or of the man sitting on the bed [ 1 1 ] : one senses that the smile will survive the effacement of the body. (28)

At this extreme point of cosmic dissipation, in a closed but unlimited cosmos, it is clear that the Figure can no longer be isolated or put inside a limit, a ring or parallelepiped: we are faced with different coordinates. (29)

Given the three basic elements – Structure , Figure, and Contour – a first movement ( ” tension”) goes from the structure to the Figure. The structure then appears as a field of color, but one that will curl around the contour like a cylinder; the contour appears as an isolator – a round area, an oval, a bar or system of bars; and the Figure is isolated within the contour, in a completely closed world. But it is here that a second movement, a second tension, is brought into play, one that goes from the Figure to the material structure: the contour changes, it turns into the half-sphere of the washbasin or umbrella, the thickness of the mirror, acting as a deformer; the Figure is contracted or dilated in order to pass through a hole or into the mirror; it experiences an extraordinary becoming-animal in a series of screaming transformations; and it itself tends to return to the field of color, to dissipate into the structure with a final smile, through the i ntermediary of the contour, which no longer acts as a deformer, but as a curtain where the Figure shades off into infinity. Thus, this most closed of worlds was also the most unlimited. (32)

If we confine ourselves to the simplest element, the contour (which begins as a simple circle or round area) , we can see the variety of its functions at the same time as the development of its form: it is first of all isolating, the final territory of the Figure; b u t it is thus already the “depopulator” or the “deterritorializer,” since i t forces the structure to curl around the Figure, cutting it off from any natural milieu; it is still a vehicle, since it guides the little stroll of the Figure in its remaining territory; and it is a trapeze apparatus or prosthesis, because it sustains the athleticism of the Figure confined inside it. It then acts as a deformer, when the Figure passes into it through a hole or a point; and it again becomes a trapeze apparatus or prosthesis in a new sense, for the acrobatics of the flesh; and finally, it is the curtain behind which the Figure is dissolved by joining with the structure. In short, it is a membrane, it has never ceased to be a membrane that assures the communication in both directions between the Figure and the material structure. (32-33)

The coexistence of all these movements in the painting ‘ ” . is rhythm. (33)

In any case, Bacon has always tried to eliminate the “sensational”, that is, the primary figuration of that which provokes a violent sensation. This is the meaning of the formula, “I wanted to paint the scream more than the horror. ” 1 2 When he paints the screaming Pope, there is nothing that might cause horror, and the curtain in front of the Pope is not only a way of isolating him, of shielding him from view; i t is rather the way in which the Pope himself sees nothing, and screams before the invisible. (38)

[…] violence has two very different meanings: “When talking about the violence of paint, it’s nothing to do with the violence of war. ” 1 3 The violence of sensation is opposed to the violence of the represented ( the sensational, the cliche ) . (39)

Movement does not explain sensation; on the contrary, it is explained by the elasticity of the sensation, its vis elastica. According to Beckett’s or Kafka’s law, there is immobility beyond movement: beyond standing up, there is sitting down, and beyond sitting down, lying down, beyond which one finally dissipates. The true acrobat is one who is consigned to immobility inside the circle. (41)

[…] what interests Bacon is not exactly movement, although his painting makes movement very intense and violent. But in the end, it is a movement “in-place, ” a spasm, which reveals a completely different problem characteristic of Bacon: the action of invisible forces on the body ( hence the bodily deformations, which are due to this more profound cause) . (41)

But this operation is possible only if the sensation of a particular domain ( here, the visual sensation) is in direct contact with a vital power that exceeds every domain and traverses them all. This power is rhythm, which is more profound than vision, hearing, etc. Rhythm appears as music when it invests the auditory level, and as painting when it invests the visual level. (42)

This ground, this rhythmic unity of the senses, can be discovered only by going beyond the organism. (44)

Beyond the organism, but also at the limit of the lived body, there lies what Artaud discovered and named : the body without organs. “The body is the body I it stands alone I it has no need of organs I the body is never an organism I organisms are the enemies of bodies . ” (44)

Thus the body does not have organs, b u t thresholds or levels. Sensation is n o t qualitative and qualified, but has only an intensive reality, which no longer determines with itself representative elements, but allotropic variations. Sensation is vibration. (45)

Bacon and Artaud meet on many points: the Figure is the body without organs (dismantle the organism in favor of the body, the face in favor of the head ) ; the body without organs is flesh and nerve; a wave flows through it and traces levels upon it; a sensation is produced when the wave encounters the forces acting on the body, an “affective athleticism, ” a scream-breath. When sensation is linked to the body in this way, it ceases to be representative and becomes real; and cruelty will be linked less and less to the representation of something horrible, and will become nothing other than the action of forces upon the body, or sensation ( the opposite of the sensational) . (45)

In short, the body without organs is not defined by the absence of organs, nor is it defined solely by the existence of an indeterminate organ; it is finally defined by the temporary and provisional presence of determinate organs. This is one way of introducing time into the painting, and there is a great force of time in Bacon, time itself is being painted. The variation of texture and color on a body, a head, or a back ( as in Three Studies rifthe Male Back of 1 9 70 [63 ] ) is actually a temporal variation regulated down to the tenth of a second. Hence the chromatic treatment of the body, which is very different from the treatment of the fields of color: the chronochromatism of the body is opposed to the monochromatism of the flat fields. To put time inside the Figure – this is the force of bodies in Bacon: the large male back as variation. (48)

What is this hysterical smile? Where is the abomination or abjection of this smile? Presence or insistence. Interminable presence. The insistence of the smile beyond the face and beneath the face. The insistence of a scream that survives the mouth, the insistence of a body that survives the organism, the insistence of transitory organs that survive the qualified organs. And in this excessive presence, the identity of an already-there and an always-delayed. Everywhere there is a presence acting directly on the nervous system, which makes representation, whether in place or at a distance, impossible. (51)

What we are suggesting, in effect, is that there is a special relation between painting and hysteria. It is very simple . Painting directly attempts to release the presences beneath representation, beyond representation. The color system itself is a system of direct action on the nervous system. This is not a hysteria of the painter, but a hysteria of painting. With painting, hysteria becomes art. Or rather, with the painter, hysteria becomes painting. (51-52)

This is the double definition of painting: subjectively, it invests the eye, which ceases to be organic in order to become a polyvalent and transitory organ; objectively, it brings before us the reality of a body, of lines and colors freed from organic representation . And each is produced by the other: the pure presence of the body becomes visible at the same time that the eye becomes the destined organ of this presence. (52)

In art, and in painting as in music, it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. (56)

Force is closely related to sensation: for a sensation to exist, a force must be exerted on a body, on a point of the wave. But if force is the condition of sensation, it is nonetheless not the force that is sensed, since the sensation “gives” something completely different from the forces that condition it . (56)

Time, which is nonsonorous and invisible – how can time be painted, how can time be heard? (57)

[…] the extraordinary agitation of these heads is derived not from a movement that the series would supposedly reconstitute, but rather from the forces of pressure, dilation, contraction, flattening, and elongation that are exerted on the immobile head . They are like the forces of the cosmos confronting an intergalactic traveler immobile in his capsule. It is as if invisible forces were striking the head from many different angles. (58)

This is why the problems Bacon faces are indeed those of deformation, and not transformation. These are two very different categories. The transformation of form can be abstract or dynamic . But deformation is always bodily, and it is static, it happens at one place; it subordinates movement to force, but it also subordinates the abstract to the Figure. When a force is exerted on a scrubbed part, it does not give birth to an abstract form, nor does it combine sensible forms dynamically: on the contrary, it turns this zone into a zone of indiscernibility that is common to several forms, irreducible to any of them; and the lines of force that it creates escape every form through their very clarity, through their deforming precision (we saw this in the becoming-animal of the Figures) . (59)

And Bacon’s deformations are rarely constrained or forced ; they are not tortures, despite appearances. On the contrary, they are the most natural postures of a body that has been reorganized by the simple force being exerted upon it: the desire to sleep, to vomit, to turn over, to remain seated as long as possible . . . . (59)

But the forces that produce the scream, that convulse the body until they emerge at the mouth as a scrubbed zone, must not be confused with the visible spectacle before which one screams, nor even with the perceptible and sensible objects whose action decomposes and recomposes our pain. If we scream, it is always as victims of invisible and insensible forces that scramble every spectacle, and that even lie beyond pain and feeling. This is what Bacon means when he says he wanted ” to paint the scream more than the horror.”3 (60)

When, like a wrestler, the visible body confronts the powers of the invisible, it gives them no other visibility than its own. I t i s within this visibility that the body actively s truggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our s trength and diverted us. It is as if combat had now become possible. The struggle with the shadow is the only real struggle. When the visual sensation confronts the invisible force that conditions i t , it releases a force that is capable of vanquishing the invisible force, or even befriending it. Life screams at death, but death is no longer this all-too visible thing that makes us faint; it is this invisible force that life detects, flushes out, and makes visible through the scream. Death is j udged from the point of view of life, and not the reverse, as we like to believe. (62)

With the triptych, finally, rhythm takes on an extraordinary amplitude in a forced movement which gives it an autonomy, and produces in us the impression of time: the limits of sensation are broken, exceeded in all directions; the Figures are lifted up, or thrown in the air, placed upon aerial riggings from which they suddenly fall. But at the same time, in this immobile fall, the strangest phenomenon of recomposition or redistribution is prod uced , for it is the rhythm itself that becomes sensation, it is rhythm that becomes Figure, according to its own separated directions, the active, the passive, and the attendant. . . . (73)

Cliches, cliches! The situation has hardly improved since Cezanne. Not only has there been a multiplication of images of every kind, around us and in our heads, but even the reactions against cliches are creating cliches. Even abstract painting has not been the last to produce its own cliches: “all these tubes and corrugated vibrations are stupid enough for anything and pretty sentimental .”2 Every imitator has always made the cliche rise up again, even from what had been freed from the cliche. The fight against cliches is a terrible thing. (89)

From start to finish, accident and chance (in this second sense) will have been an act or a choice, a certain type of act or choice. Chance, according to Bacon, is inseparable from a possibility of utilization. I t is manipulated chance, as opposed to conceived or seen probabilities. (94)

For example, a mouth : it will be elongated, stretched from one side of the head to the other. For example, the head : part of it will be cleared away with a brush, broom, sponge, or rag. This is what Bacon calls a “graph” or a diagram: it is as if a Sahara, a zone of the Sahara, were suddenly inserted into the head; it is as if a piece of rhinoceros skin, viewed u nder a microscope, were stretched over it; it is as if the two halves of the head were split open by an ocean; it is as if the unit of measure were changed, and micrometric, or even cosmic, units were substituted for the figurative unit.3 A Sahara, a rhinoceros skin: such is the suddenly outstretched diagram. It is as if, in the midst of the figurative and probabilistic givens, a catastrophe overcame the canvas. (100)

I t is like the emergence of another world. For these marks, these traits, are irrational, involuntary, accidental, free, random. They are nonrepresentative, nonillustrative, nonnarrative. They are no longer either significant or signifiers: they are asignifying traits. (100)

The diagram is thus the operative set of asignifying and nonrepresentative lines and zones, linestrokes and color-patches. And the operation of the diagram, its function, says Bacon, is to be “suggestive. ” O r , more rigorously, t o use language similar t o Wittgenstein’s, it is to introduce “possibilities of fact.”6 Because they are destined to give us the Figure, it is all the more important for the traits and color-patches to break with figuration. This is why they are not sufficient in themselves, but must be “utilized. ” (101)

The diagram is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order or rhythm. I t is a violent chaos i n relation to the figurative givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting. As Bacon says, it ” unlocks areas of sensation.”7 The diagram ends the preparatory work and begins the act of painting. (102)

A line that delimits nothing still has a contour or outline itself. Blake at least understood this.IS The diagram must not eat away at the entire painting, i t must remain limited in space and time. I t must remain operative and controlled . The violent methods must not be given free reign, and the necessary catastrophe must not submerge the whole. The diagram is a possibility of fact – it is not the fact itself. Not all the figurative givens have to disappear; and above all, a new figuration, that of the Figure, should emerge from the diagram and make the sensation clear and precise. To emerge from the catastrophe . . . . (110)

It is out of chaos that the ” stubborn geometry” or “geologic lines” first emerge; and this geometry or geology must in turn pass through the catastrophe in order for colors to arise, for the earth to rise toward the sun . l I t is thus a temporal diagram, with two moments. But the diagram connects these two moments indissolubly: the geometry is its “frame” and color is the sensation, the “coloring sensation.” The diagram is exactly what Cezanne called the motif. (111-112)

I n effect, the motif i s made up of two things: the sensation and the frame. It is their intertwining. A sensation, or a point of view, is not enough to make a motif: the sensation, even a coloring sensation, is ephemeral and confused, lacking duration and clarity ( hence the critique of impressionism) . But the frame suffices even less: it is abstract. The geometry must be made concrete or felt, and at the same time the sensation must be given duration and clarity.2 Only then will something emerge from the motif or diagram. (112)

A scream no more resembles what it signals than a word resembles what it designates. (114)

Bacon first of all seems to be an Egyptian. This is his first stopping point. A painting by Bacon has an Egyptian look to it: the form and the ground, connected to each other by the contour, lie on a single plane of a close, haptic vision. But we can already discern an important difference creeping into the Egyptian world like a first catastrophe – the form collapses, it is inseparable from a fall. The form is no longer essence, but becomes accident; humankind is an accident. The accident opens up a space between the two planes, which is where the fall occurs. (135)

This is enough, however, to make the beautiful unity of the haptic world seem doubly broken. The contour ceases to be the common limit of the form and the ground on a single plane ( the round area, the ring) . I t becomes the cube, or its analogues; and in so doing, the cube becomes the organic contour of the form – the mold. This marks the birth of the tactile-optical world. In the foreground plane, the form appears to be tangible, and owes its very clarity to this tangibility (figuration follows from this, as a consequence) . This form of representation also affects the ground insofar as, in the background plane, it curls around the form, producing a connection which is itself tactile. But in the other direction, the ground of the background plane attracts the form. And here it is a pure optical world that tends to free itself, at the very moment when the form loses its tactile character. Sometimes it is light that gives the form a clarity which is purely optical and aerial, dis aggregating; sometimes, on the contrary, it is the “rnalerisch” shadow, the darkening of color, which overcomes the form and dissolvesit, severing it from all its tactile connections. The danger now is no longer simply that of figuration, but that of narration (What is happening? What is going to happen? or What happened?) . (136)

The diagram-accident has scrambled the intentional figurative form, the bird: it imposes nonformal color-patches and traits that function only as traits of birdness, of animality. It is from these nonfigurative traits that the final whole emerges, as if from a pool; and it is they that raise it to the power of the pure Figure, beyond the figuration contained in this whole. Thus the diagram acted by imposing a zone of objective indiscernibility or indeterminability between two forms, one of which was no longer, and the other, not yet: it destroys the figuration of the first and neu tralizes that of the second. And between the two, it imposes the Figure, through its original relations. There is indeed a change of form, but the change of form is a deformation; that is, a creation of original relations which are substituted for the form: the meat that flows, the umbrella that seizes, the mouth that is made jagged. As the song says, ” I ‘ m changing my shape, I feel like an accident.”6 The diagram has introduced or distributed formless forces throughout the painting, which have a necessary relation with the deformed parts, or which are made use of as, precisely, “places. ” (157-158)

[…] Bacon’s program: to produce resemblance with nonresembling means. (158)

Jeremy Powell “David Lynch, Francis Bacon, Gilles Deleuze: The cinematic diagram and the hall of time”

November 2, 2021 Leave a comment

Powell, Jeremy 2014. David Lynch, Francis Bacon, Gilles Deleuze: The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time. Discourse 36(3): 309-339.

[DL:] “One of the things that strikes me,” he said, “is how exciting it must have been to have been a filmmaker in the early days of cinema, because not only was it so magical to see paintings begin to move, but they could start altering time.” (310)

The lengthier second part of this essay will therefore show that cinema’s ontological capacity for mobilizing inhuman forces (via a cinematic diagram) is put to work in Lynch’s film practice in order to produce an image of that most profound of Deleuzian inhuman forces, the Virtual, and that Lynch’s recurrent image of the Virtual—as the Hall of Time, a hallway and exhibition space where time itself is put on display—is no mere illustration but a properly philosophical intervention into our concept of time in the wake of Deleuze’s work. (310)

What cinema shows us of time can, in time, alter time so that our concepts of time require revision. (311)

As for the influence of Bacon, we can again turn to Lynch’s own words for confirmation. He has proclaimed Bacon to be, in his estimation, “the main guy, the number one kinda hero painter.”7 (312)

[…] abstractions in Lynch’s films consistently arise in figural form. BOB, who appears in Twin Peaks as well as in many of Lynch’s paintings, is, Lynch claims, “an abstraction with a human form”—and, he is quick to note, “that’s not a new thing.”19 BOB is not only an abstract concept rendered aesthetically but is also a visual figuration-becoming-abstraction, that is, a figurality. A body is irreducibly unstable: it is constantly subject to the actions of invisible forces, and not all of these forces tend toward its enduring coherence. Any of Lynch’s figures is thus subject to distortions of size, texture, or form, by any number of means. (314-315)

How best to orchestrate the forces that enter the work through that diagram?25 Lynch understands this problem well; speaking of the need to let “accidents” happen in his work, he says that “you always have to leave an opening for other forces, you know, to do their thing.”26 In works such as Lynch’s, these diagramed forces may in turn indicate “the most baleful forces” to which a body can be subject.27 His works are full of open doors through which such forces come, and if a certain paranoia is not always absent from the affects of Lynch’s films, this is surely because he effectively shows that we are constantly surrounded by bodies capable of destroying our own bodies, if only we happen to enter into the wrong relation with them. (316)

[…] Deleuze refuses to decipher works of art or even to interpret them. While he is attracted to works that seem to demand interpretation, it is usually in order to demonstrate a noninterpretive mode of engaging with them. (318)

[…] each element becomes literal: it acquires a double structure and begins to oscillate between, on the one hand, literally being its relations to certain other elements (as the corn is pain and sorrow) and, on the other hand, literally being the contingent presence of the element itself, without consideration of its relations to any other elements, which all fade from the element as though cut away from it. (319)

Lynch, like Gardiner, does not speak in metaphors—he does not play games—and never speaks of metaphors. The terms he uses are “abstractions” and “ideas.” (321)

Roger Sinnerbrink has defined what he calls Lynchian “cinematic Ideas” in the following way: “visual and aural sequences that combine images and sounds liberated from a purely narrative function with images evincing a complex cinematic reflexivity. . . . Lynch’s cinematic Ideas are presentations of the imagination that exceed conceptual determination and linguistic expression.” (321)

If stripped of its reference to a psychologized “imagination,” this notion of an Idea is fully compatible with a Deleuzian approach to art. Thus, in Claire Colebrook’s gloss on Deleuze’s philosophy of virtual Ideas, “an Idea extends the concepts through which we think the world to a virtual point beyond the world. . . . The Idea is the extension to the nth power of an actual possibility. We see this or that actually differing thing, but we can think difference as such.” (322)

Any thought that is worthy of the name is an event, one that cannot take place within the sensorimotor schema that perpetuates doxa. The Outside is the Virtual, the plane of immanence, which (at least for the late Deleuze of the cinema books and What Is Philosophy?) is identified not only with thought, becoming, and Life but also with time. (322)

The task is to get outside of thinking our insides. And the problem is with language: “As soon as you put things in words, no one ever sees the film the same way,” Lynch has said. “And that’s what I hate, you know. Talking—it’s real dangerous.” (324)

In the cinema books Deleuze demonstrates that a subjective interiority can only ever be the product of an “incurving of the universe,” by means of which a subject dominated by a sensorimotor schema linking perceptions to actions constructs a world that appears as nothing more than a set of objects organized according to the interests of the subject. (324)

The human body is “a strange thing,” Lynch says. “Its most important function appears to be carrying the mind from one place to another, but there are a lot of fun things you can do with the body, too. Of course, it can also be torture.”67 If the uncanny in Lynch’s work is indeed in part a feeling of the unhomely within the homely, of the outside within the inside, we can now see that this is not merely a case of the return of repressed memories or beliefs. It is also a matter of affect, of sensing that whatever senses within me is active within me and is prior to the subjective interiority of my reactive self-image.68 It is a matter of sensing the uncanny world of purely perceptive larval subjects writhing neither within nor without but with my brain. (325-326)

The Hall of Time is always both a hallway and a theatrical exhibition hall: one passes through the hallway in order to reach a different place-moment; in the theatrical hall is staged or screened a show of time. This dual character of the Hall of Time comes into sharper relief with each passing film. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (as well as the final episode of Twin Peaks) the hall is the Red Room, “the Waiting Room,” into which Agent Cooper and then Leland/BOB enter by pulling aside a red theatrical curtain that appears deep within a forest of the actual. It is an endless series of rooms set end to end, each connected by a narrow hallway and together forming an infinite hallway with only curtains for walls. Upon entering the hall Cooper is presented first with a musical performance (by vocalist Jimmy Scott); later Cooper endures a series of stagings in which events from his past are mingled and confused. Finally, by virtue of being in the hall, he comes to see through the darkness of future past” in order to affect events, though he himself cannot escape (figure 5). (327)

In Mulholland Dr. the theatrical hall is Il Club Silencio, into which Rita and Betty may enter normally by means of a door in the actual, though the camera must lurch forward in a headlong rush down an empty parking lot that suddenly appears to be a wide hallway (figure 8). (328)

In Inland Empire, the Hall of Time itself ceases to be a definitely identifiable zone and is dispersed everywhere throughout the film. (329)

It is only in these avatars of the hall that we are given an image of the crystal as such, a direct image of the splitting of time, what Deleuze has called “the most fundamental operation of time.”74 This operation is sketched visually in Cinema 2: The Time-Image75 and most fully described in that volume: “Since the past is constituted not after the present that it was but at the same time, time has to split itself in two at each moment as present and past, which differ from each other in nature, or, what amounts to the same thing, it has to split the present in two heterogeneous directions, one of which is launched toward the future while the other falls into the past.” (329)

Yet Lynch also goes beyond the crystal that Deleuze describes: Lynch’s work does not only render indiscernible an actual image and its virtual counterpart (as do the films of Welles, Fellini, Herzog, and all the other auteurs Deleuze discusses in the fourth chapter of Cinema 2). A concurrent progression is also strictly adhered to: what was once the intrusion of an ontological outside into an otherwise coherently actual narrative becomes instead the actualization of a force of differentiation that ruptures all identities and disperses all sensorimotor actions in an irreducible fragmentation of narrative that permits no discernible identification of inside or outside, even if these categories remain nonetheless distinct. This does not constitute merely a progressive waning of transcendence and a progressive waxing of immanence. At the limit, what Lynch’s work approaches would be a reversibility of immanence and transcendence. (332)

In the disclosure of difference and becoming that Deleuze affirms, Colebrook, for one, reads a “superior dialectic that would allow differences and contradictions to remain in tension.” (333)

Given any identity and its contradictory nonidentity, this would posit not a transcendent identity as negation of negation (Hegel) nor a transcendent nonidentity as negation tout court (Adorno) but a nonidentity as positivity, that is, a difference in itself that is at once transcendent of the superficial negativity and, at a higher plane of analysis, purely immanent. A moment of reversibility of immanence and transcendence is precisely such a point in which contradictories and incompossibilities become indiscernible and undecidable without ceasing to be distinct—in this case, the contradictories and incompossibilities of transcendence and immanence themselves. (333)

Donna Haraway “Situated knowledges”

October 25, 2021 Leave a comment

Haraway, Donna 1988. Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3): 575–599.

So, I think my problem, and “our” problem, is how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own “semiotic technologies” for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a “real” world, one that can be partially shared and that is friendly to earthwide projects of finite freedom, adequate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness. (579)

I would like a doctrine of embodied objectivity that accommodates paradoxical and critical feminist science projects: Feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges. (581)

The eyes have been used to signify a perverse capacity – honed to perfection in the history of science tied to militarism, capitalism, colonialism, and male supremacy – to distance the knowing subject from everybody and everything in the interests of unfettered power. (581)

Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all seems not just mythically about the god trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into ordinary practice. And like the god trick, this eye fucks the world to make techno-monsters. Zoe Sofoulis calls this the cannibaleye of masculinist extra-terrestrial projects for excremental second birthing. (581)

I would like to suggest how our insisting metaphorically on the particularity and embodiment of all vision (although not necessarily organic embodiment and including technological mediation), and not giving in to the tempting myths of vision as a route to disembodiment and second-birthing allows us to construct a usable, but not an innocent, doctrine of objectivity. (582)

The moral is simple: only partial perspective promises objective vision. (583)

Feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting of subject and object. It allows us to become answerable for what we learn how to see. (583)

“Subjugated” standpoints are preferred because they seem to promise more adequate, sustained, objective, transforming accounts of the world. But how to see from below is a problem requiring at least as much skill with bodies and language, with the mediations of vision, as the “highest” technoscientific visualizations. (584)

Such preferred positioning is as hostile to various forms of relativism as to the most explicitly totalizing versions of claims to scientific authority. But the alternative to relativism is not totalization and single vision, which is always finally the unmarked category whose power depends on systematic narrowing and obscuring. The alternative to relativism is partial, locatable, critical knowledges sustaining the possibility of webs of connections called solidarity in politics and shared conversations in epistemology. Relativism is a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere equally. (584)

Subjectivity is multidimensional; so, therefore, is vision. The knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finished, whole, simply there and original; it is always constructed and stitched together imperfectly, and therefore able to join with another, to see together without claiming to be another. Here is the promise of objectivity: a scientific knower seeks the subject position, not of identity, but of objectivity, that is partial connection. There is no way to “be” simultaneously in all, or wholly in any, of the privileged (i.e., subjugated) positions structured by gender, race, nation, and class. And that is a short list of critical positions. (586)

Positioning is, therefore, the key practice in grounding knowledge organized around the imagery of vision, and much Western scientific and philosophic discourse is organized in this way. Positioning implies responsibility for our enabling practices. It follows that politics and ethics ground struggles for and contests over what may count as rational knowledge. (587)

I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people’s lives. I am arguing for the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring, and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity. (589)

Rational knowledge is a process of ongoing critical interpretation among “fields” of interpreters and decoders. Rational knowledge is power-sensitive conversation. Decoding and transcoding plus translation and criticism; all are necessary. So science becomes the paradigmatic model, not of closure, but of that which is contestable and contested. (590)

Situated knowledges requires that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not as a screen or a ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and his authorship of “objective” knowledge. The point is paradigmatically clear in critical approaches to the social and human sciences, where the agency of people studied itself transforms the entire project of producing social theory. (592)

Acknowledging the agency of the world in knowledge makes room for some unsettling possibilities, including a sense of the world’s independent sense of humor. Such a sense of humor is not comfortable for humanists and others committed to the world as resource. There are, however, richly evocative figures to promote feminist visualizations of the world as witty agent. We need not lapse into appeals to a primal mother resisting her translation into resource. The Coyote or Trickster, as embodied in Southwest native American accounts, suggest the situation we are in when we give up mastery but keep searching for fidelity, knowing all the while that we will be hoodwinked. I think these are useful myths for scientists who might be our allies. Feminist objectivity makes room for surprises and ironies at the heart of all knowledge production; we are not in charge of the world. We just live here and try to strike up noninnocent conversations by means of our prosthetic devices, including our visualization technologies. (593-594)

I like to see feminist theory as a reinvented coyote discourse obligated to its source in many heterogeneous accounts of the world. (594)

I wish to translate the ideological dimensions of “facticity” and “the organic” into a cumbersome entity called a “material-semiotic actor”. This unwieldy term is intended to portray the object of knowledge as an active, meaning-generating part of apparatus of bodily production, without ever implying the immediate presence of such objects or, what is the same thing, their final or unique determination of what can count as objective knowledge at a particular historical juncture. Like “poems”, which are sites of literary production where language too is an actor independent of intentions and authors, bodies as objects of knowledge are material-semiotic generative nodes. Their boundaries materialize in social interaction. Boundaries are drawn by mapping practices; “objects” do not preexist as such. Objects are boundary projects. But boundaries shift from within; boundaries are very tricky. What boundaries provisionally contain remains generative, productive of meanings and bodies. Siting (sighting) boundaries is a risky practice. (595)

Susan Haack “Extreme scholastic realism: Its relevance to philosophy of science today”

October 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Haack, Susan 1992. Extreme scholastic realism: Its relevance to philosophy of science today. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 28(1): 19–50.

  • Nominalism and conceptualism deny that generals are real;
  • Nominalistic platonism asserts that generals exist;
  • Scholastic realism asserts that there are real generals (but denies that generals exist). (23)

Peirce criticized James’s and Schiller’s versions of the pragmatic maxim as nominalist in character. And, as is well known, he came to feel the same way about his own earlier formulation of the maxim, which gave the meaning of a general term by way of an indicative conditional specifying its actual experiential consequences, and shifted to a distinctively realist formulation using a subjunctive conditional specifying the actual and potential experiential consequences. (29-30)

In 1878 he had claimed that “[t]here is absolutely no difference between a hard thing and a soft as long as they are not brought to the test” (5.403); but by 1905 he accused his earlier self of having “inclined too much towards nominalism” in suggesting that a diamond which is never rubbed is not really hard. This, he wrote, had been “a monstrous perversion of the concept … real” (5.457, 1905). (30)

[…] Peirce described his position as “highly favorable to a belief in external realities,” but as “deny[ing] that there is any reality which is absolutely incognizable in itself, so that it cannot be taken into the mind” (8.13). This is characteristically pragmatist; for the pragmatic maxim would disqualify as not genuine any question which would not be susceptible of settlement however long scientific inquiry were to continue. (31)

It is instructive to juxtapose Quine’s comment that: “Things are similar in the … theoretical sense to the degree that they are interchangeable parts of the cosmic machine revealed by science,” with Peirce’s characterization of “real kind”: “Any class which, in addition to its defining character, has another which is of permanent interest and is common and peculiar to its members, is destined to be conserved in that ultimate conception of the universe at which we aim, and is accordingly to be called “real”.” (6.384, 1901) (39)

[…] “extreme scholastic realism” says only that there are real kinds, kinds not dependent on our linguistic conventions or schemes of classification – which is to say only that some particular things in the world really are like each other, whether or not we classify them together. This is not to say that all our classifications correspond to real kinds of things; and neither is it to deny that some of our classifications are entirely conventional. (41)

But if scholastic realism is true, it is possible for there to be classifications which are not entirely conventional, but represent real kinds. (42)

In contemporary philosophy of science it sometimes seems as if we have the choice only of two alternatives, both of them unpalatable: on, so to speak, the left wing, a kind of cynical sociologism repudiates the idea that science enjoys, in any sense, a distinguished epistemic status, and the defense of science can come to seem to depend on some sort of infallibilist, inflexible, rigid, right-wing realism. Of course, this is a false dichotomy, and the truth lies somewhere in between. […] Part of what is appealing about Peirce’s realist thesis, that laws and general types are not figments of the mind but are real, is that it goes far enough to avoid the first unpalatable alternative, but not nearly so far as the second. If laws and general types were not real, but were figments of the mind, science would indeed be (to borrow a phrase of Quine’s) entirely “a put-up job”; and it is hard to see how one could defend even the modest idea that, whether or not it succeeds, science legitimately aspires to find out how things are. (42)

Günther Anders “Le temps de la fin”

September 21, 2021 Leave a comment

Anders, Günther 2007. Le temps de la fin. Paris : L’Herne.

Il est vrai que nous, qui jusqu’à présent avons été un « genre de mortels », sommes maintenant condamnés à vivre comme les « premiers des derniers hommes », qu’à partir de maintenant et aussi longtemps que nous vivrons, nous vivrons nécessairement comme un « genre mortel ». (27)

[…] nous nous sommes nous-mêmes transformés en ce nouveau genre, que cette métamorphose est notre œuvre. (27)

[…] toute situation de suicide comporte un élément de liberté. Etre libre, cela signifie que ce que nous pouvons faire, nous pouvons aussi, si nécessaire, nous abstenir de le faire ; cela signifie que nous pouvons arrêter de produire ce que nous produisons. (28)

Il semble que nous nous trouvons dans cette situation : le temps de la fin dans lequel nous vivons désormais est notre œuvre. Et la fin des temps, si elle arrivait, serait, elle aussi, notre œuvre, du moins serait-elle l’œuvre de nos œuvres. (28-29)

[…] la chance nous est offerte de jouer un rôle d’apocalypticiens d’un nouveau genre, à savoir d’« apocalypticiens prophylactiques ». Si nous nous distinguons des apocalypticiens judéo-chrétiens classiques, ce n’est pas seulement parce que nous craignons la fin (qu’ils ont, eux, espérée) mais surtout parce que notre passion apocalyptique n’a pas d’autre objectif que celui d’empêcher l’apocalypse. Nous ne sommes apocalypticiens que pour avoir tort. (29-30)

Le petit mot [« nous »] ne signifie-t-il pas ici deux choses différents ? Ne désigne-t-il pas dans le premier cas les savants, la technique, la production et la politique, c’est-à-dire le nombre infinitésimalement petit d’hommes qui peuvent décider de la production et de l’éventuel emploi de ces instruments ? Et, dans le second cas, les millions d’habitants du globe non impliqués, impuissants et non informés, c’est-à-dire nous, les futures victimes ? Quand nous parlons de « suicide », n’avons-nous pas devant les yeux un modèle décidément inadapté à notre cas ? Le modèle d’un être qui, bien que « deux âmes, hélas, se partagent [son] sein », est pourtant toujours un et a la chance fabuleuse, s’il combat, de toujours seulement combattre en lui et de ne combattre que lui-même ? (31)

Aussi sombre qu’elle puisse sembler, aussi nettement qu’elle puisse contraster avec l’arrière-plan incolore de l’habituel vocabulaire de la minimisation dans la mesure où elle ne doit son origine qu’au faux singulier « l’humanité », il nous faut aussi renoncer à cette expression. (32)

On n’a pas le droit de dissimuler cette dualité : ces actes sont et restent des meurtres. (33)

Le temps de la fin dans lequel nous vivons, pour ne rien dire de la fin des temps, contient deux sortes d’hommes : celle de coupables et celle des victimes. Nous devons tenir compte de cette dualité dans notre réaction : notre travail a pour nom « combat ». (33)

  1. De par son immensité, la menace demande trop à notre capacité limitée de compréhension (celle de notre perception aussi bien que celle de notre imagination) ; elle « ne tient pas en elle » ; elle « l’excède » ; elle ne se laisse pas inscrire dans les dispositions de l’individu ou de la société – bref, elle n’est pas enregistrée comme un objet existant. […] Il nous montre que ces hommes ne se méprennent pas sur la menace bien que le danger soit très grand mais parce que le danger est très grand. (41/42)
  2. « paralogisme de la sensation » (43) ; une indifférence à l’apocalypse (44). Nous voilà devant le paralogisme annoncé dont notre homme (et certainement pas contre son gré) était victime. Formulé, ce paralogisme donnerait : Formule fondamentale : « « On » n’est pas seulement « moi » et n’est par conséquent pas « moi, personnellement ». » Application : « Ce danger par lequel « je » ne suis pas seulement menacé mais par lequel « on » est menacé ne me menace pas personnellement. Il ne me concerne en rien personnellement. Par conséquent, il n’a pas non plus besoin de m’inquiéter ou de me pousser à agir personnellement. » (45)

Car s’il y a quelque chose qui caractérise notre époque dans sa totalité, un trait qui est le dénominateur commun aux plus divers phénomènes actuels, du confort à la servitude, de l’image télévisuelle aux camps d’extermination, c’est précisément cette « décharge » : le fait qu’on nous décharge, par la forme d’activité technique, de la plupart des choses et des plus importantes d’entre elles signifie qu’on nous les dérobe. On nous « décharge » par exemple, puisque nous ne sommes plus des agents mais seulement des « co-agents dans la médiation », de la responsabilité de nos actes et des remord que ceux-ci peuvent occasionner. (46-47)

Le sentiment de sécurité est le prix qu’on nous paie notre responsabilité, c’est-à-dire notre liberté. Et ce sentiment de sécurité coule vers nous  aussi spontanément et automatiquement que de l’eau, du gaz, des images télévisuelles, ou n’importe quel flux qui arrive chez nous. (48)

Voilà comment s’énonce la loi de l’innocence : plus l’effet est grand, plus petite est la méchanceté requise pour le produire. (51)

Je ne dois ni n’ai besoin de haïr. Non, j’en suis meme incapable. Plus précisément : je ne dois pas en etre capable. Parce que « je suis devenu incapable de devoir ». Cela signifie : parce que je suis exclu des choses morales et que je dois les rester. Bref, le geste qui décidera du début de l’apocalypse ne se distinguera d’aucun autre geste technique et sera accompli […] avec ennui par un quelconque employé qui suivra innocemment l’instruction d’un signal lumineux. (53)

S’il y a quelque chose qui symbolise bien le caractère diabolique de notre situation, c’est cette innocence. (53)

La liaison entre l’acte et le coupable est détruite. Ce qui reste, ce sont deux bords d’un gouffre définitivement coupés l’un de l’autre et entre lesquels on ne peut plus jeter de pont : d’un côté, le bord de l’homme […] et de l’autre, celui des horribles effets de ses actes. (55)

C’était le bon temps, quand la méchanceté était encore la condition des actes mauvais ! (56)

[…] si nous ne savons plus que nous faisons quelque chose, nous pouvons par conséquent faire les pires choses. La règle que j’ai appelée « loi de l’innocence » trouve ici son application. (59)

Andreas Folkers “Fossil modernity”

September 14, 2021 Leave a comment

Folkers, Andreas 2021. Fossil modernity: The materiality of acceleration, slow violence, and ecological futures. Time & Society 30(2): 223–246.

The article draws on recent work on energy, fossil fuels (Szeman and Boyer, 2017), as well as on the products and ecological problems of petrochemicals like plastics (Gabrys et al., 2013). It also draws on historical approaches (Altvater, 2007; Huber, 2013; Malm, 2016a; Mitchell, 2011;Westermann, 2007;) that show how societies discovered, extracted, used, and ultimately began to problematize fossil resources. To account for the active role that these materialities play in modern societies, fossil resources will be analyzed as temporal operators that may support societal time regimes but also undermine them. Inspired by, yet going beyond, new materialist approaches (Barad, 2007; Bennett, 2010), it therefore proposes a materialist analytics of time. (224-225)

Since modern societies are confronted with the accumulated residuals of its fossil-fuelled operations, they cannot fully emancipate from the past to seize an open futuure of progress and possibility. For the same reason, they cannot separate themselves from nature but become implicated in the timescales of a natural history they have inadvertently created. (225)

Critique has always been complicit with the modern consciousness of time (Koselleck, 1973). Instead of clinging to the “space of experience,” it relies on an open “horizon of expectations” (Koselleck, 2004: 255–276) to realize a better futuure (Folkers, 2016). But what happens when this horizon turns out to be clogged with the residuals of the very substance that helped to create the modernist horizon of progress in the first place? I will thus argue that critique risks “running out of steam” (Latour, 2004) because it quite literally runs out of fuel: that the temporal structures modern critique assumed relied on the use of resources that now corrode these structures. I will therefore suggest an alternative temporal grammar for critique that no longer just seeks to overcome the past but to carefully inherit it as an ongoing material condition of the present that stretches into the far future. (225)

According to the processual ontology at the heart of new materialisms, time can no longer be merely construed as an “inner sense” (Kant, 1968: 78–83), a social construct or an external parameter just tracking what takes place in the world. Rather, time is immanent to and entangled with the endless stream of material events. In this vein, Barad (2007: 180) stresses the entangled becoming of time and matter: “Becoming is not an unfolding in time but the inexhaustible dynamism of the unfolding of mattering.” Matter is not in time like beer in a can but the very “stuff of time” (Ingold, 2012: 439). Time is not a linear, extended, and empty space. Rather, matter is the intensive texture of time. (226)

[…] the dominance of fossil capitalism with a linear temporality enabled by the use of fossil fuels, the residual with an accumulated temporality created by the waste of fossil modernity, and the emergent with a re-cyclical temporality that emerges from the ways fossil residuals incite new socio-economic and sociopolitical processes. These three layers of material temporality comprise what I call fossil modernity. (227)

Because they are easily storable, they provide abstract energy which not only serves any purposes but also does so at any moment in time.With respect to energy, the storable stockpile of fossil fuels made it possible to experience the future in a characteristically modern way as a “storehouse of possibility” (Luhmann, 1976: 150): an open horizon of available and manageable options. (228-229)

In contemporary consumerism, plastic introduced a certain type of seemingly timeless presentism (Hawkins, 2018). It is always shiny and new since it is not subject to decay. At the same time, it is made to be used and consumed as quickly as it is thrown away. As has been frequently emphasized (Bergmann, 2019; Davis, 2015; Gabrys et al., 2013), this short-term nature of plastic consumption contrasts sharply with the enormous material persistence of plastic waste. (230)

Rosa et al. (2017) introduced the concept of “dynamic stabilization” to account for the predicament of modern societies that only maintain their status quo by constantly growing and accelerating. I argue that fossil fuels and materials underpin dynamic stabilization by making possible economic growth and the acceleration of social life. Yet, fossil residuals undermine the dynamic stabilization of modern societies by contributing to phenomena of thermodynamic destabilization: the dissipation of matter and energy, pollution understood as entropy. Thermodynamic destabilization, the accumulation of chaotic, disruptive and often toxic fossil residuals, introduces a new experience of temporality. While the worldview of dynamics and dynamic stabilization abstracts from irreversible, historical time and locks societies into a “frantic standstill” (Rosa, 2005), thermodynamics and thermodynamic destabilization introduce the “arrow of time” (Prigogine and Stengers, 1984: 257–290) and expose societies to the experience of irreversible ecological change. The dialectic of fossil modernity is that the way it stabilizes through speed produces destabilizing heat. (231)

The necro-materialism of entropy should, however, not be confused with an utter loss or disappearance of matter–energy because this would contradict the first law of thermodynamics. Rather, the second law states that there is an inevitable transition of matter–energy from an ordered and readily available to a chaotic, wasteful, and unavailable state (Stengers, 2010: 174). This becomes especially obvious with regard to the molecularization of matter in the form of CO2 molecules and microplastics. These “new immortals” (Bastian and Van Dooren, 2017) are still materially present but can no longer be used and are often not even visible let alone tangible. (231)

The promises of the fossil fuelled past have turned into future ecological threats that confront societies with two different temporal trajectories, which both in their own ways subvert the accelerationist tendency of modernity. On the one hand, ecological threats called forth by the long-lasting fossil residuals represent forms of what Nixon (2011: 2) famously called “slow violence,” a form of “violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction”: sea levels rising over decades, yet violently washing away human and nonhuman life-worlds, chronic diseases that slowly drag down the body, etc. On the other hand, there is a growing concern that the violence of climate change might be more sudden than we tend to think. Some climate scientists argue that beyond certain tipping points, the regulative mechanisms of the Earth System might flip giving way to an abrupt and self-reinforcing climate change (Clark, 2010). (232)

The prospect of slow violence suggests that acceleration engenders creeping devastations imperceptible by social observations adapted to high speeds. The abrupt climate change scenario implies that social acceleration catalyzes an uncontrollable acceleration of nature which happens too fast for a society locked into speed to react. (232)

As biologists emphasize, there is no rubbish in a wellfunctioning ecosystem because the waste products of one organism serve as feedstock for another (Margulis, 1999: 119). (234)

To achieve the climate change mitigation targets, the date when society (say in 2050) may have achieved net-zeroemissions does not really matter. Instead, the cumulative emissions since the beginning of industrialization decide over the climate future. Climate scientists and environmental activists thus frequently represent the carbon budget as a kind of doomsday clock that runs faster when CO2 emissions rise.2 The CO2 molecule, or rather the concentration of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere measured in parts per million, becomes the fundamental temporal unit for measuring the ticking time of irreversible climate change. (234)

Similar to the economy of recycling and remediation, life processes metabolizing, fixing, and storing carbon promise to slow down, stop, or even reverse the irreversible temporality of thermodynamic destabilization. The goal is to render the linear trajectory of fossil modernity more circular and thus introduce a new form of tempo-materiality, a recyclical time (Nowotny, 1989: 75). However, the temporality in play also goes along with a rather traditional capitalist horizon. As capitalism starts to conquer the garbage frontier, recycling is aligned with economic return. (235)

In the context of climate justice, calling for a “balancing of the earth’s budget” (Bonneuil, 2015) not only means to balance the accounts between industrial carbon emissions and biospheric carbon fixation. It is instead a call to settle the “climate debt” (Klein, 2015: 389–418) among past, present, and future, rich and poor, and north and south. Here, climate politics will no longer just be a politics of recycling, but becomes a politics of redistribution and reparation (Folkers, 2020: 621–623). As in recycling, this means coming back to the residuals of fossil modernity, but not in order to erase their traces but to decipher them as thick tempo-material traces of the inequalities and injustices that structure fossil modernity. (236)

The still dominant mode of fossil modernity resorts to coal, oil, and gas as sources of energy and raw material and enables a linear and accelerated temporality as well as a futuure horizon of seemingly endless growth and opportunities. This linear and futuure oriented tempo-material order conjures up an accumulated time composed out of the residual waste products of fossil modernity. “Dynamic stabilization”—the maintenance of the socio-economic status quo through speed and growth—evokes thermodynamic destabilization—the degradation of the environment through heat and chaotic dissipation. The open horizon of infinite options turns into the sinister prospect of ecological obligations. Faced with this conundrum, the emergent can no longer take the form of the new, but can only rise from the residuals of the fossil past. The article first sketched an emergent response in which these residuals become the feedstock for an emerging bio-economy. A different, counter-hegemonic response breaks with this horizon and instead deciphers fossil modernity’s residuals as indexes and operators of social asymmetries. (238-239)

José Enrique Finol “On the corposphere”

September 14, 2021 Leave a comment

Finol, José Enrique 2014. On the corposphere. Chinese Semiotic Studies 10(3): 367–374.

So I will say that the Corposphere is one of the “inter-connected groups of Semiospheres”, one with a special place since, as we shall see, it is where semiotization of the world begins. The Corposphere might be characterized as the whole ensemble of significations—signs, languages, semiosis—that originates from/in/around the body as a multifaceted, dynamic semiotic complex. (368)

It is possible to outline, at least, three complementary ways, one that we will call micro frontiers, which starts from the body itself; a second one that we will call macro frontiers, where we look at the frontiers from the different body contexts; and a third that we will call the body imaginaries, where we look into the myth, beliefs, legends and stories about the body that prevails in a society at a historical moment. (369)

In that sense, the micro frontiers begin distinguishing between body interiorities and exteriorities, and if we pursue this line it is possible to disaggregate these two extreme limits into open interiorities, like the mouth or ears, and closed interiorities, like the stomach and the heart. Needless to say, there are rich and various meanings associated with the mouth or to the heart, for instance. (369)

[…] I think that semiotics, departing from the epistemological general principle according to which the body is a totality that functions at the internal and external frontier of numerous other languages, has to be able to develop a model by which we may design a sort of cartography of the body. This general cartography will allow us to navigate among the different areas of the body seen as a pluralistic semiotic system. To do so it is necessary, first of all, to establish some criteria that begins with the anatomical body, its unities, and elements, its functions and articulations, in a word: its syntax. Then we follow on with its basic process of creating meanings and how these meanings become articulated to body parts, to movements, in a word with its semantics. And finally, we move forward to the pragmatic level by which the body becomes, for oneself and for others, a sign to be used in a communicative way. (372)

I think that one of the key concepts to develop a Corposphere is the concept of corporeality, usually defined as the quality of being physical. Here we have to think about the body as a semiotic corporeality, which I interpret as seeing the body as an enacting world, a performing world of semiosis. It is in its overwhelming capacity of meaning and communication that the body is a key concept to understand the whole notion of identity that, as a social and individual construct, deep down only can be understood as a semiotic process. (373)

Kalevi Kull “Semiotic fitting and the nativeness of community”

September 13, 2021 Leave a comment

Kull, Kalevi 2020. Semiotic fitting and the nativeness of community. Biosemiotics 13: 9–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-020-09375-y

We define community as a set of species that are functionally linked, i.e. linked by restorable mediated bonds. By these bonds we mean the relations based on processes of recognition (like, for instance, the recurrent relations between a predator and prey, flower and pollinator, root and mycorrhiza fungus, etc.). Thus, the community is real if its members (coenopopulations) are linked by self-restorable2 mediated bonds. Since the restorable mediated bonds or relations of recognition are the same as code-relations or habits, we receive a further version to define a community: it is the local set of coderelated species. The codes or habits that are responsible for the functioning of the community would be called ecological codes (Kull 2010). (10)

[…] the reality of community is largely analogical to the reality of species. A species is real if it is based on the pairwise recognition between individuals (thus forming a category of the family-resemblance kind in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s sense—see, e.g., Kunz 2012: 60–61). The recognition species concept (Paterson 1993) and the biosemiotic species concept (Kull 2016) meet this criterium, while phylogenetic and typological species concepts do not. Both in case of species and of community, their reality stems primarily from fittting, not from boundaries (which are secondary and fuzzy). (11)

Evolutionary adaptation or Anpassung is a slow change, in which natural selection may play a role; it takes many generations for natural selection to be effective. Ecological fitting or Einpassung is quick; its time scale is that of communication processes. And importantly, ‘Einpassung’ is an early version of the concept of ‘semiotic fitting’. (13)

Fitness is defined in the neo-Darwinian theory as the quantitative measure of reproduction (“reproductive success”).5 Fitting or fittedness is different— it is a qualitative, not a quantitative feature. (13)

Living systems are those that make themselves. Life is capable of self-design. This is more than self-organisation, as an old concept that was so popular in the era of cybernetics and that goes back to Hans Driesch’s self-regulation concept. This is the capacity of construction and self-construction as dependent on the choices that living organisms make. This also means that community structure and composition are largely based on decisions or choices made by organisms. Natural selection is what may follow. Evolutionary modifications of adaptations will finetune functional changes that have become fitted within the community.6 Choice comes first, selection may work afterwards. (14)

Semiotic fitting itself obviously includes various types which correspond to the mechanisms that are responsible for acquiring the habits or establishing the bonds which link the species. We could distinguish, for instance, between four major types of such mechanisms (see also Kull 2019):

(a). fitting by imprinting (iconic, vegetative); organism establishes the relation and keeps it by using its recognition window;

(b). fitting by associating (indexical, animal); organism uses marks that are correlated with the object of linkage in order to find the object of relation;

(c). fitting by imitating (emonic, many vertebrates); organism acquires the means to establish (or keep) the relation by imitating the behaviours existing in the community;

(d). fitting by will and convention (symbolic, humans); organism makes agreements about its links, establishing conventional relations and letting, sometimes violently, others fit to it. (15-16)

Instead of defining nativeness on the basis of origins, we point out relationality as a means of its identification. This would also be in concordance with the definition of community as a set of species that are functionally linked. If community constructs itself on the basis of (relational) fitting, then nativeness of the community is a product of fitting, not vice versa. Nativeness is a feature that deepens in the course of community’s succession (assuming there were no severe destruction episodes or large qualitative changes). No identity with the whole is necessary for this. (16)

New relations happen again and again, encountering other members of the local ecosystem, and establishing in this way more and more relationships. Habit-taking — fitting —, however quick at the outset, does not end when a suitable relation is found. Thus, the longer the local history (without destruction episodes), the higher the number of local relations, the stronger the level of nativeness. Studying the natural succession of a community can show us how the context-dependence of its inhabitants and its structure increases. The native community is the most context-dependent community. (16)

One is native if one has established rich, multiple and relatively stable relationships with others in certain communicative system. (16)