Sunday, 20 May 2012

my two bits

As there was some interest in Berlin's essay on Sorel, I am reproducing some passages from it below (from 'Against the Current'). It was written in1971, expanded in 1974:

The weapon of the workers is violence. Although it gives its name to Sorel's best known work, its nature is never made clear. Class conflict is the normal condition of society, and force is continuously exerted against the producers, that is, the workers, by the exploiters.Force does not necessarily consist in open coercion, but in control and repression by means of institutions which, whether by design or not, have the effect, as Marx and his disciples have made clear, of promoting the power of the possessing class. this pressure must be resisted. To resist force by force is likely to result, as in the case of the Jacobin revolution, in the replacing of one yoke by another, the substitution of new masters by old. A Blanquist putsch could lead to more coercion by the state -- the dictatorship of the proletariat, perhaps of its own representatives, as the successor of the dictatorship of the capitalists... Force, by definition, represses; violence, directed against it, liberates. Only by instilling fear in the capitalists can the workers break their power, the force exerted against them. 321-22
This, indeed, is the function of proletarian violence: not aggression, but resistance. Violence is the striking off of chains, the prelude to regeneration... renewal of life, rejuvenation, the liberation of creative powers [etc]
How the use of power in practice can be distinguished from the use of force is never made clear. it is merely postulated as the only alernative to peaceful negotiation which, by presupposing a common good, common to workers and employers alike, denies the reality of class war. ..322
Does violence mean more than this? Does it mean occupation of factories, the seizing of power, physical clashes with police or other agents of the possessing class, the shedding of blood? Sorel remains unclear... Anything that increases militancy but does not lead to the formation of power structures among workers themselves, is approved. The distinction between force and violence appears to depend entirely on the character of its function and motive. Force imposes chains, violence breaks them. Force, open or concealed, enslaves, violence, always open, makes free. These are moral and metaphysical, not empirical concepts. Sorel is a moralist and his values are rooted in one of the oldest of human traditions. 322-23

After reading Christos's post and looking at a little bit of Zizek's 'Violence', I wonder if we can call Zizek (or anyone else) a Sorelian moralist? Supposing we can, is it fair to say that the violence-menu the Sorelian moralist is limited to:

1-- 'a truly Gandhian level of non-violence' (215) in which 'abstention goes further than intra-political negation, the vote of no confidence: it rejects the very frame of reference' (216). This Zizek says is more-violent-than-violence violence. 'If one means by violence a radical upheaval of the basic social relations' ...[then] sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing to do' (217) (and we never read Gandhi...)
2-- the radical upheaval: 'the emancipatory dimension of the category of divine violence' (204); this is: 'when those outside the structured social field strike 'blindly', demanding and enacting immediate justice/vengeance [It's hard not to insert an exclamation mark here]. Recall, a decade or so ago, the panic in Rio de Jeneiro when crowds descended from the favelas to the rich part of the city and started burning and looting supermarkets. This indeed was divine violence' (202). This divine violence is not 'merely' subjective but 'its status is radically subjective, it is the subject's work of love' (203). What is the difference between the radically and the merely subjective violence? Zizek quotes Che Guevera. It seems that the feeling of love that marks radical subjectivity is that which guides the true revolutionary -- and the true revolutionary is he who exhibits the aforementioned radical subjectivity (circular definition). 'To paraphrase Roberspierre and Kant: love without cruelty is powerless, cruelty without love is blind, a shortlived passion with no persistent edge. The underlying paradox is that which...elevates love over mere pathetic and unstable sentimentality is its cruelty itself, its link with violence' (204). Note that 'those outside the structured social field' and cruelty are both blind when divine violence/love make them 'strike'. When violence is divine, the mob's blindness is radical sight. 'Sometimes [presumably when divine violence is involved] hatred is the only proof that I really love you' (204) -- and, by implication, a blind strike at the supermarkets the only proof that divine violence exists.
Love advice for the philosophical? 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

(Christos) - Utopianism and Violence

Ok, here it is...sorry it's long and incoherent.

In our final meeting, I would like to address two concerns, both of which are rather nebulous (the first more than the second) and which should therefore be taken as bases for discussion.

The first takes as its point of departure Berlin’s thesis in ‘The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West’ from 1978, succinctly presented in the following two statements (the emphasis in both occasions is mine):

The idea of a perfect society is a very old dream, whether because of the ills of the present, which lead men to conceive of what their world would be like without them - to imagine some ideal state in which there was not misery and no greed, no danger or poverty or fear or brutalising labour or insecurity - or because these Utopias are fictions deliberately constructed as satires, intended to criticise the actual world and to shame those who control existing regimes, or those who suffer them too tamely; or perhaps they are social fantasies - simple exercises of the poetical imagination. (20)


What is common to all these worlds, whether they are conceived of as an earthly paradise or something beyond the grave, is that they display a static perfection in which human nature is finally fully realised, and all is still and immutable and eternal. (22)

What interests me here is that Berlin’s anti-utopianism, meaning his mistrust of all political systems that assume that ‘human nature is … immutable and eternal’, shares something (if only in spirit?) with the notion of ‘Original Sin’ that takes on a revolutionary/radical significance in Sorel/Proudhon (according to Blanton, also in Marx) AND that is also at the heart of various brands of conservatism (Quinton, Gray). I know that this is not to say much – for the key to understanding the politics of Sorel and Proudhon and the politics of conservatives such as Burke, Coleridge, Eliot rests in how they interpret ‘Original Sin’ – to distinctly antithetical ends. Yet Berlin’s formulation, and the place occupied by this notion (traditionally a theological doctrine but argued in the works of the above thinkers on entirely secular grounds) in his thought, at least merits, I think, our attention. Does it appear in the works of other thinkers studied in our reading group? Is it a dated/anachronistic framework through which to approach politics?


The second concern has to do with the role assigned to violence by thinkers including Sorel, Gobetti and Proudhon (and the opposition to violence of others). In thinking about the question of violence, I would like to bring in – dear-oh-dear – Žižek. Very briefly, Žižek dinstinguishes between two different kinds of violence: subjective and objective (a category that, in turn, includes symbolic and systematic violence):

This is the starting point, perhaps even the axiom, of the present book: subjective violence is just the most visible portion of a triumvirate that also includes two objective kinds of violence. First, there is a “symbolic” violence embodied in language and its forms, what Heidegger would call our “house of being” … this violence is not only at work in the obvious – and extensively studied – cases of incitement and of the relations of social domination reproduced in our habitual speech forms: there is a more fundamental form of violence still that pertains to language as such, to its imposition of a certain universe of meaning. Second, there is what I call “systemic” violence, or the often catastrophic consequences of the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems. (1)

The “catch” in understanding this ‘systemic’ violence is that it is ‘invisible since it sustains the very zero-level standard against which we perceive something as subjectively violent … something like the notorious “dark matter” of physics, the counterpart to an all-too-visible subjective violence. (2)
Žižek proceeds to examine ‘the hypocrisy of those who, while combatting subjective violence, commit systematic violence that generate the very phenomena they abhor’, locating – as he always does! – the ultimate cause of violence in what he terms the ‘fear of the Neighbour’. He bemoans post-political bio-politics (‘an awesome example of theoretical jargon which, however, can easily be unpacked: “post-political” is a politics which claims to leave behind old ideological struggles and, instead, focus on expert management and administration, while “bio-politics” designates the regulation of the security and welfare of human lives as its primary goal’ (34)).

There’s also plenty of Lacanian and Heideggerean reading of violence inhering to language itself. I was interested in his discussion of Heidegger on violence in Introduction to Metaphysics – a fundamental violence that exists in the ‘essencing’ of language:

Violence is usually seen in terms of the domain in which concurring compromise and mutual assistance set the standard for Dasein, and accordingly all violence is necessarily deemed only a disturbance and an offence… The violence one, the creative one who sets forth into the unsaid, who breaks into the unthought, who compels what has never happened and makes appear what is unseen – this violent one stands at all times in daring… Therefore the violence-doer knows no kindness and conciliation (in the ordinary sense), no appeasement and mollification or prestige and by their confirmation … For such a one, disaster is the deepest and broadest Yes to the overwhelming … Essential de-cision, when it is carried out and when it resists the constantly pressing ensnarement in the everyday and the customary, has to use violence. This act of violence, this de-cided setting out upon the way to the Being of beings, moves humanity out of the hominess of what is most directly nearby and what is usual.

Žižek interprets this ontological violence as at the centre of Heidegger’s reading of the chorus from Antigone on the uncanny/demonic character of man. He writes:

As such, the Creator is “hypsipolis apolis” … he stands outside and above polis and its ethnos; he is unbound by any rules of “morality” (which are only a degenerative form of ethos); only as such can he ground a new form of ethos, of communal being in a polis… Of course, what reverberates here is the topic of an “illegal” violence that founds the rule of the law itself … the first victim of this violence is the Creator himself, who has to be erased with the advent of the new order that he grounded. (59)

Right – so assuming Žižek is right and provided that his analysis is a useful and pertinent frame, several questions arise:

(1) Is the kind of violence advocated by Sorel/Proudgon subjective, objective, subjective and complementary to objective violence?
(2) Does it prevent or lead to the politics of fear (bio-politics)?
(3) Does it renounce the political (politics based on a set of universal axioms)?
(4) Must the intelligentsia (Heidegger’s Creator) die?
(5) Finally, what are we to make of recent instances of violence (London Riots, for example?). For Žižek instances of violence such as the Paris outbursts of 2005 constitute a ‘a passage a l’acte’ or ‘an impulsive movement into action which can’t be translated into speech or thought and carries with it an intolerable weight of frustration’ (65). Because it lacks utopian vision, this violence should be understood in terms of ‘a vague, unarticulated ressentiment’ (63). Another kind of violence – Žižek finds this in Saramago’s Seeing – involves abstaining through anti-social (non-political) behaviour: ‘If one means by violence a radical upheaval of the basic social relations, then, crazy and tasteless as it may sound, the problem with historical monsters who slaughtered millions was that they were not violent enough. Sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do’ (183). Is this relevant to Gobetti’s anti-social behaviour?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

(Mark) - Nietzsche, Language, Will to Power, Modernist Aesthetics: Against Forster

Mark has asked me to post this on his behalf:

Notes towards an ethics of ‘friendship’:

Nietzsche and Modernist Aesthetics vs. Humanism

on the ‘geometric’. …
agoraphobia.—at the root (—the necessity) of art.
(—the classical).

to retrieve (redeem)—to save—experience from the sense of its being inessential and lost.—without meaning or (necessary) consequence.

—without purpose or import.

—arbitrary, floating and haphazard.

infinitely replaceable.
(nothing substantial, nothing essential, nothing that stands).

—to redeem experience from the overwhelming mass—the flux—of forces (—events, possibilities, obligations-demands, desires, anxieties…), uncontrollable and vast.
(—a resentment of…).



T.E. Hulme appropriates what he defines as Wilhelm Worringer’s insight into what lies at the root of art.


—that, at ‘the root of artistic creation’, lies ‘an immense spiritual dread of space’.
(against, what Worringer calls, the ‘urge to empathy’: that ‘happy pantheistic relationship of confidence between man and the phenomena of the external world’.)

—gives rise (birth) to the (artistic) ‘urge to abstraction’:

the fear of the (apparent) vastness of space (paradoxical as it might nonetheless seem) is in fact revealed as a fear-resentment of (life’s) smallness.

—to be overwhelmed in the face of the vastness—the vast expanse of forces (felt) in the external world, that run counter to the will—to the willed
(would will, if could.).


fear.—of an incapacity to control.—a resentment of the smallness of the lived.
(frustration the incapacity to exceed the limits of circumstance circumscribed, and realise the potential-desired, felt).

to be caught (inescapably) in-within the smallness of what must be lived (circumstance) at the cost of the all-else that could (that ought?) to be lived.

—to fix the lived (—the impression) in a fixed form. in a form which makes (which renders) it necessary.

—to record the impression—atomically (—faithfully).find (to use) the precise—exact—words.


qualification of (the expression of) the impression.—precision-accuracy
(full—complete—honesty/accuracy.—as honest as can). …

—and slough off the inessential

to fix the core of the experience and render it sharp, hard and precise (‘geometric’).—to give it a shape.

make the lived necessary.—by virtue of its being a form
(existence—having existed-lived—become necessary to the creation of the form and become necessary through its own embodiment within—imbued with—the form).

to redeem (to show—to reveal—the already redemption of) the lived, in-by recognition.—of the work (—the image).—of the attempt to articulate the intuition.

recognition (approbation?).—to be recognised.

a need.—to have the sense of an intuition recognised.

something worthy of being communicated (—set down).

recognition of the need (the compulsion) to set it down.

to create a solid, stable object that demonstrates the necessity of experience. makes experience-the lived necessary to itself,—to its own creation.

a yearning (—an ache) to realise and to communicate and to have that feeling-sense be recognised (and be shared-requited).

to be recognised as self in another-others and reflected.

to be known (and to be loved).

in-between space-fear, then, and the desire (the need) for recognition

vs. the ‘romantic’.

—against the ‘romantic’.

the ‘romantic’.
(—a frame of mind.—a temperament).

—an ill-will against time’s passing-having passed (—the burden of the conscience),—an impatience with (against) the must-be-lived. a dissatisfaction with life’s finitude.

—the ‘romantic’ cannot find what it is looking for in life (as it is lived). and so, then, it judges life.—a holding life culpable (for the fault—the lackwithin itself).

—impoverishes life and projects its ideal into an other-world.—into a false infinite (—a fiction.—a work of art).

looks for redemption (—the redemption from life) in the infinite of its own design

and takes this—its infinite—for the ‘real’. the real more real (true) than life itself.makes life answerable to it.

the ‘classical’, then, by contrast—vs.—the ‘romantic’.

remains conscious of all its limits-limitations…

focuses—remains focussed—on life (as has been lived).—the things before-around it. —turned in (down) upon them

—to fashion them…

(mistrust of—rejects—all the ‘infinites’—the transcendence—of the ‘romantic’)

to capture impressions (tenuous-elusive thoughts-impressions).

to hold down (in). unflinching reflection. on impressions. on experience.

as hard, cold, cruel and as precise as it can be.

holding down within the impression—in experience.


a distance from the moment, the experience, the impression.—even from what deeply hurts (the painful). even from that which terrifies and unnerves.

to try to understand

to bring it down (as far as can) to the point of absolute accuracy.

 —the ‘self’ as an object now.

rigour. integrity.—honesty.
(—without recourse to the false salve of transcendence—of the supposed ‘infinite’ ).

—to remain reserved (to remain silent) until the image forged (fashioned) is ready (sic.—as complete,—as whole as it can be).
(to push, ceaselessly, toward an impossible perfection—an ideal.

in spite of its impossibility).

to ignore the temptation of—to—the ‘romantic’ (—of-to the other-worlds therein).

—to select (—to be able to select) impressions (—intuitions).to single out and to work upon.

—to leap, but (always) to return (back). without (avoiding) flying off into all those (seeming) seductive infinite romantic ethers…         

—the fiction of the ‘thing’(—the ‘self’). …

an art of reading.

of the structure of the impression.

of the forces.—physical: movements, pressures.—of the senses: light, colour, touch, smell, sound… —of the emotional.—of connections in-of memorial-remembered (memories—conjured up, so to).

—of the competing impulses of which the impression is comprised-composed.—their arrangement, their relation to one another and their (relative) prominence.

in any given moment.

—all urges. drives. impulses.

and all compete (struggle) for balance, for clarity, for order,for dominance.

and the balance-order, at any one given moment, is what decides what I am (to be).

—the ‘self’.

the ‘self’ (the sense of ‘self’), then, as a fiction.
—the result (the end) of a process of struggle (negotiation) of—between—drives and forces.

—the name (retrospective)-naming, thus, of the arrangement—the hierarchy—of forces.

in (within) an organism.

an imposition of language

imposed on flux

—a multiplicity of forces (of sub-wills).

a projection.—a fiction of unity projected onto the flux of forces.

—language (linguistic).

—the origin and the history of a ‘thing’ (of any given thing): first, a projection—projecting back a name—onto an arrangement-heirarchy of forces.

and second—a forgetting of (that act of) projection (that act of creation).

the name—the forged thing—taken to be (the) real.
(because for Nietzsche, following Kant, all that we can have access to and thus have knowledge of are the objects of everyday experience. because we cannot think outside the limits of our senses, we take those objects of experience to be real—in-themselves).

any ‘thing’ in existence, then, has (must have)—come about

—as the result of a continuing process of naming (—names).

—a continual (continued,—continuing) process of being (having been) interpreted.

—from the retrospective imposition of a unity (—of unities) upon the flux that flows always (anyway) beneath.
(—beneath the names).

upon the flux of forces.

—upon a (any given) quantum of reality

—always being appropriated and (re-)transformed…

—continually being undone and remade (—re-named).—re-forged

appropriated by (—linguistic) forces. Overpowered.

—from without.

—the history, then, of any (given) ‘thing’, then, is a chain of signs (of names, of naming…).

always unfolding.

—a history of interpretations.—of adaptations

not (no, never) a progress-thus progressive.
(—no ‘goal’,—no ‘end’).

only ever a series (—a succession) of—mutually independent—processes.

—of appropriation.

of adaptation. …

exacted on the (given) quantum of reality.
(—of resistances, then, and of overpowerings).

the form and the meaning of a ‘thing’ (of any given thing), then, is fluid

as in the process of the formation of language.

first: the stimulus of sense-sense-stimulus.
(a sight, a sound, a scent.—an impression)…

transposed-translated into a word (—a sound).—from a need (felt) to discharge the (physical-physiological,—psychological) reaction to the stimulus.
(the word as a metaphor—as first metaphor—for the stimulus felt).

when many such similar impressions are yoked together (—grouped), under the aegis of a single word, that word becomes a concept.

—a name for a group—a cluster—of experiences (impressions), which serves to yoke them all together according to the similarities that they share.
(and must overlook—must elide—all the differences between them.

—crude (unsubtle)…).

the concept.—second metaphor.
(at two removes, then, from the sense-stimulus which gives birth-rise to it).

—the formation of the concept of the ‘leaf’…

—formed by discarding the differences between all (of those) individual leaves.
(—awakens the idea that, in addition to all those individual, incompatible, leaves, there exists—in nature (somehow, somewhere)—some ür,—some ideal ‘leaf’,—from which, in some way-fashion, all those other leaves,—descend

the Platonic Idea).

—‘analysis’ (to borrow Bergson’s term).

—breaks down—fragments—its subject (—the flux) into parts-thus elements (—‘things’).—all made to participate with other fragmented elements in-under—pre-existing—concepts.

the break down (—breaking down) of-in-within ‘analysis’… —art (after a fashion).

—in the forgetting of that (act of) art (—creation)—the (mistaken) taking of the fragment-‘thing’ as-for a thing-in-itself (—as-for the real. ).

—the ‘self’, then.—a word. …
(—a name.—an ideal thus.—impossible to hold to,—impossible to attain identity with.—thrust upon on, thus,  from without,—in linguistic…).

a fiction.

beneath the veneer, then, of (supposéd) ‘things’ (—of what we come to think of, then, as ‘experience’).—beneath the membrane (the skein) of artificial fragmented atoms—of ‘things’ in-of conceptual space, and of ‘moments’ in conceptual time—there subsists a foundation (—a substrate) of undifferentiated ‘states’.

—the flux of an undivided continuity of ‘states’.

—apparently mutually exclusive and autonomous, these ‘states’ thus nonetheless interpenetrate, enfolding (down, within themselves) all the states which led-up-to (preceded) their emergence, and, again, unfolding, ineluctably, into all those states which are to (must) follow (in the future yet). …
—forming, then, (just) one reality, nonetheless, however paradoxical it may seem, comprised of this continual flux of successive ‘states’.

after a time, through habitual use (—familiarity)—convention—the concept (concepts) become empty—flat and stale—and elide (ignore) the details and the variations (—the engine of the difference) between things.

—no longer maintain any connection to the sense-stimulus from which they originally evolved-arose (no use value any more.—no connection to the quanta they were born to name—to which they, in effect, gave birth).


the function of the artist.—

the role—the purpose—of the artist, then, is to break through—to lacerate—the hardened, wasted, stultified skein (the film) of the concepts. …

—and descend into the un-divided continuity of the flux beneath.

—to break through the conventional ways of looking at (of seeing) things.—all the lazy, habitual (—cliché) words which spring, unbidden, yet irresistibly (it seems) to mind in reaction to stimuli (experiences), and which veil ‘reality’ (—all the details elided—forgotten-repressed—in-by the words-concepts of convention

and reveal (select) elements, always present, but masked—veiled—imperceptible, beneath (within) the inadequacy, partiality and prejudice of language (words and concepts).—disentangled and clarified. and strive to attain a ‘sympathy’ with their subject—their model.

to discover (to uncover) new shapes.

—the aesthetic intuition. …

—the release (purged) of all that had been felt to have been lost .lost in the inadequacy of the word-concept—the name.

a yearning—a need—to create:
to capture and to articulate that sense (felt) of a more fundamental, more potent and more true (?) reality.—beneath-beyond the reality formed-forged within language, words, concepts (—the name).

—at the root of the need for creation.—for an expression.

—the need, then, to incorporate the aesthetic intuition.

(—artistic inspiration).

the artist is the individual who cultivates an attitude in which they actively seek out the experience of aesthetic intuition.

—and seek to lacerate-break through the skein of the (linguistic) ‘real’.

—to tear apart the ‘self’ as had-taken-it-to-be (the supposéd self-identical ‘thing’).

—self-mistrust. (—self-alienation.—a distance from the self-as-felt and as lived before)

—in the laceration of the false, unified sense of self as self-identical (as seemed),—descend, then, into the flux of forces thus beneath.

—a revelation. (—of forces).

distance from the ‘self’ as lived-before.

—stoical indifference.


—the partiality (the falsehood) of the ‘self’.—smallness, thus, that prohibits the all-else that could (that should?) have been lived.


—a mistrust of the partiality and of the urge to act upon (and thus to react to) all impulses/pulsions that the organism is heir to. …

self-knowledge only in-through retrospect, then. …

a distance—a stoical distance—from the ‘self’ that was lived-before.


—to be not simply the passive recipient of impressions, but to hold back.—against each and every impression—each and every impulse-pulsion—reaction. …

and to turn (thus) to account.

—to hold down (in-within).

to analyse.

to mistrust.


a fastidiousness.
(—a hygiene.).

—to be able to read the value-values (prejudices, abilities, incapacities) which those impulses (pulsions) express. …

anatomy of an impression. …

—to hold down in (each and) every impression,—every experience.
(—the anatomy of a feeling).

to feel (to intuit?) each and all the different elements or aspects of a feeling (—an impression or experience).

—the various feelings (sic) of which it is composed-comprised (—a manifold).


—to know the impression.—and not to be (simply) at its mercy

—at the mercy of the uncritical prejudices of which it (may very well) form the expression.
(—metaphysical, religious—moral—and political prejudices political).

at a distance (stoical,—sceptical)—retrospective—from the impression.


to know the shape—the contours—of it. …

—the anatomy of experience.

mistrust. (suspicion,—scepticism).—holding back (reserve.—a distance…)

slowing down the response to experience.—mistrust (not trusting) all of those initial impulses (—impulses to respond).

—a mistrust of the judgments and values of which they are the expression, and an equal mistrust of the right-capacity  to express those values.
(—an attempt at—toward—a stoical distance.—toward perspective). …

intellectual conscience. …

—the fold. …

language.—words.—the name.—the ‘self’ (—the fiction of.—the imposition in-of-by language…).

(and then)
—the laceration (of the—fictional—membrane of the atoms of ‘things’.—of language).

(and) descent, then, into—the revelation of—all of the forces (impulses-pulsions) of-within—the flux (beneath the false consciousness of ‘reality’).

—and (to) hold down in the (in each and every) impression.

—to know the impression.
(—the anatomy of the impression.). …

but then, …

—(to) the return. …

—must always fall back into the inadequate and yet necessary utilitarian bonds of (‘atomic’) language.

—the necessity, thus, of (the fiction of) the ‘self’.

—the need to incorporate the (experience of the) intuition.

—bring back the lacerated ‘self’.—an ironic appropriation of the fiction of-in language.

—bring back the lacerated ‘self’,—as an ironic register from which to draw images (the image) with or from which to translate—to embody—the intuition.

—as precisely as possible.
(—the exact words).


—the integrity (the discipline) of the intellectual conscience.

against the flights—the sentiment and the vagaries (the metaphysics) of the ‘romantic’.

ironic self-re-creation in (—within) the image.

—the ‘self’ (before).—language-linguistic. (—the ‘thing’,—the atom).

laceration-descent (—the intuition).

—the flux (of forces). (—the undivided continuity of ‘states’…).

and finally the image,—as the incorporation of the process as a whole.  

—the fold in the self-creation of the artist:

On kissing Albertine…

no (real, true,—abiding) self-identity, then, but (only ever) a modality of ‘selves’…


—Marcel kissing Albertine (—the prisoner)…


—as he leans in to kiss her, the arc (sliding) of that movement, collapses

—breaks down into (through) all the memories (evoked) of all his experiences with her; of all the Albertines (so to speak) that he has known and loved and desired.
(—images,—of all the memories of times and places,—of sensations, of-with her,—thus evoked by the movement itself)… —until it is simply (only) kissing a girl.—on the cheek. …
(—the disappointment.—the non-correspondence of the idealised with the world,—with life-as-lived.

—the failure of the lived to meet—to meld with—the ideal, thus. …).


—an arcing,… —series.—sequence (—a chain)…
(the discrete quanta of time (the atom-moments).—collapse (back) into the undivided continuity of ‘states’, thus). 

—for Proust (Marcel), however, this collapse takes place purely through one plane,—through one axis.

—purely in-through time

—that collapse.—that same collapse into a sequence, a series, a modality, can be seen not simply as occurring in or through the axis of time—the unfolding-falling chain through all of the moments (—the fragments) of the Albertines Marcel has known (—in memory-memorial). …

but always also, then, those moments (—the memories) are themselves fragmented (within themselves) into all the forces which composed the phenomena of the ‘Albertines’.—his impressions of the ‘Albertines’. …

in-through the ‘axis’, then, of the arrangement of forces which each ‘Albertine’ expressed.

extending not purely through (the arc of remembered) time, but (always, also) in-through (a) ‘space’…

—the ‘space’ (so to speak) of the arrangement (the hierarchy) of forces, within each (within every) given moment, every quantum of reality.

Proust’s temporal modality,—thus qualified.

—two axes. …

—the first: the ‘horizontal’ arc of the fragments of (Proustian) time.

—the second, the ‘vertical’: the ‘spatial’ axis of the flux of forces.

the latter presupposes the axis of time.—a passage (of ‘states’) of time, through which the forces (of a given quantum) reached (and passed through) the modes of their arrangements-hierarchies (—of appropriation and of (re-)transformation).

provisionality (of the name, the ‘thing’: the forms-modes of the quanta…):

the laceration of the ‘self’ as-had-taken-it-to-be.—the descent into the flux of forces (beneath).

—ecstatic (—outside-beside one’s ‘self’) within the aesthetic intuition.

and the attempt, then, to hold the experience (—the energy,—the pathos) of the intuition in the ironic reclaiming of the ‘self’ as a register of images.

—the image.

—the fold.

—an ironic appropriation: a taking possession or control of the inevitable process of the fiction of language
(the formation of the ‘thing’—the fragmentin-of space, and of moments—atoms—in-of time).

a psychology of depth-charges
(—on self-becoming)

—a depth-psychology.

—an ironic inversion.

undoes the ‘self’ (the ‘thing’) as had taken it to be.

and reveals it as the opposite (—the inverse) of what it had seemed.

bathos (—bathetic).—a reversal, thus, in tone
(—sarcastic). …

—allows (—creates) for (provision of) a distance.—a stoical distance—indifference—from-to what has been lived before.

(—the familiar (seemed),—become, thus, unfamiliar…).

—a clarity.

which lays bare the detail(-details), which had passed—would otherwise have passed—unnoticed.
(—would have remained concealed-veiled.


—to harness the uncanny bathos in-of revelation.

—to harness the descent into flux into a process of rigorous self-laceration.—honesty. (—self-reading).

—of self-becoming.

an undoing (then-thus) of a false(-self-)consciousness.—a self-misconception.

—a revelation (—clarity) of the (arrangement of) forces beneath, which had been misrecognised.

—and to slough off all the dross of the (thus) inconsequential (—the distraction, the self-deceit).

—to capture the revelation (of forces-flux) in (within) the image.

and the image, then,—forms the foundation of-for a new shape of consciousness.

—a new ‘self’. …

—the fold, as self-creation.

—only ever provisional. …

—the ‘self’, itself, as only ever provisional (—a provisional form).


always say both more and less than intend-desire.
(—as always both a dearth-inadequate and (always) an excess of meaning-meanings…).

—to be truly honest,
—not to say more than would want (—to flow over into (a) groundless metaphysic aether (—of after and of other-worlds).—shaped (purely) by my own desire (—my own design),—my own religious, moral,—political desires-prejudices).

nor to say less.

—to be fully honest.—to capture (in as far as can) the experience of the impression. … 

(—to have expanded upon into-until a crystal (comprehensive) clarity. …).

to be, not merely, approximate

would require-compel to the would-be artist include everything—every element-force-impulse—at stake in the experience

the honest and integral work of art.

—requires-demands the ‘re-creation’ of everything, but also always to include within that comprehensive act of re-creation, a re-creation of the act of that re-creation itself, and therefore also that the artist recreate the act of recreating the act of recreation…

(etc. )

—in a self-consuming, infinite regress (—ad absurdum, ad-infinitum).

bounded round, as the artwork is, by both the finitude of the artist and by its own finitude.

—smallness (—finitude), then, renders that comprehensive honesty—impossible (finally).

and yet it remains (and must remain) an imperative.

towards an ‘ethics of friendship’…

reading Forster.

—the essay on (regarding) what he believes(-believed).—belief. …

and he argues that ‘we’ (?)—that ‘Psychology’—have (has) reached a point at which (where) the ‘subject’ is no longer a viable quantity-concern. …

not unchanging—(thus) unchangeable. …

and yet, he argues, ‘we’ still continue to act as if the subject (—the ‘Person’ thus) is unchanging (and thus,—self-identical).
(—without asking whether ‘we’ ought to…)

—Forster, then,—against (shows,… —is complicit in—the absence,—the death of) the metaphysic.

and yet.

still (somehow,—for some reason) upholds-maintains it. …

the fiction, then, of ‘thinghood’.

forcedobliges himself—into an ethics of (concerned with) discrete quanta.

Forster lays the fiction (the—self-conscious—lie) as-at the foundation, then, of an ethics.

—at the root of his reading-conception of democracy.

as an ‘individualist’ and as a ‘liberal’ (—?).      

with recourse to (notions of) the ‘natural warmth’,—‘native goodness’,—‘indwelling spirit’, and ‘holiness of the Heart’s affections’ in-of ‘Man’ (?).

even though (despite) his having highlighted the impossibility—the end-the death—of the (metaphysical) ground-foundation of these (such) notions. …

and makes appeal to a projected ‘community’—an ‘aristocracy’ (?) of the like-minded (—the identical?), the ‘sensitive, the considerate and the plucky’ (?).
(—‘the true human tradition’.—?—hmm…).

an appeal to a jaded,—sentimental (now outdated-defunct) reading-conception, thus, of Romanticism and of—‘the poet’, as sweet-sweetly hearted-natured, (politically) naïve and—divinely inspired.

—an attempted appropriation of (the figures of) Shelley and Swinburne.

—(an) appeal, thus, to (a notion of)—the true-the good,—the beautiful soul’. …

—implies class.
—his idealised-idyllic conception of the poet as the ‘beautiful soul’ implies the private school education that it was Forster’s privilege to enjoy.

intellectual hypocrisy (in-)of the maintenance (retained) of (a thus) ‘dead’ metaphysic.

the fold. …

instead of (—thus contra) Fortser’s community (—‘aristocracy) of the (—upper class,—privately educated) ‘beautiful - souls’, then. …

—(a thoroughgoing recognition of),—difference.—(in-)at the origin

—all atoms (—all ‘things’,—all people) the result—results—(unfolding) of the arrangement(s) of forces.

—at any given moment.

—the expression of processes of subjection, appropriation,—of purgation,—incorporation. …

self-overcoming. (—in-at the origin).

—before—prior to (as the condition of the possibility of)—any communication,—to any inter-subjectivity…

—the fiction of the unified ‘self’—the ‘thing’—always, first, the result of  an overcoming-overpowering of forces by other forces  in-within the organism.—processes from which the organism is thus itself forged (—as the fictional unity perceived…). …

—always first a self-overcoming. …

—self-overcoming. … —the formation of (a) new,—more stoical, more, … —clear-sighted,—‘self’. …

—self-mastery,—self-knowledge is thus the goal (—the end).

(—learn to see others, then, as arrangements of forces.—as (also) processes of subjugation, repulsion, purgation, incorporation.—as complexes of fears-anxieties, abilities, desires, appetites-proclivities, possibilities,—modesties and of overcomings, anxieties, abilities, desires, appetites and modesties—more or less successfully overcome.—the other-others,—more or less aware of—in control of-over—those processes. to be the master of, or to be mastered by—at the mercy of— impulses).

instead of searching for a community (—a consolation) of lost, idyllic, ‘beautiful souls’.

instead, search for the radical difference that will (help to) place one—oneself (one’s ‘self’)—in relief

—will show (reveal) oneself (—one’s ‘self’), then,—in perspective.

—show its limits (thus,—limitations).—its smallness. and thus ‘self’-misconception.

to facilitate an overcoming of false limits.

—self-overcoming and (as) a self-becoming.

—the furthest away, then, as (—becomes) the closest.

—the ‘enemy’ become the friend.

—no need, then, for the company—the comfort-consolation—of idealised-idyllic, emasculated, historically and politically irrelevant, anaesthetising ‘romantic’ poet-metaphysicians. (the—Forsterian—community of ‘beautiful souls’…).

—against some ‘romanticinfinity of ‘love’, thus, and the ‘good’ (—goodness).

difference, then, even to the point of antagonism.
(especially to the point of antagonism).

Monday, 14 May 2012

Berlin and Utopianism


To get things started, I was interested in this statement from Berlin's 'The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West' (from 1978, collected in The Crooked Timber of Humanity (Princeton 1990: 20-48)):

The idea of a perfect society is a very old dream, whether because of the ills of the present, which lead men to conceive of what their world would be like without them - to imagine some ideal state in which there was not misery and no greed, no danger or poverty or fear or brutalising labour or insecurity - or because these Utopias are fictions deliberately constructed as satires, intended to criticise the actual world and to shame those who control existing regimes, or those who suffer them too tamely; or perhaps they are social fantasies - simple exercises of the poetical imagination. (20)


What is common to all these worlds, whether they are conceived of as an earthly paradise or something beyond the grave, is that they display a static perfection in which human nature is finally fully realised, and all is still and immutable and eternal. (22)

And then I read Michael Walzer's piece on Berlin and his critique of Utopianism. 

I'm hoping to be able to do more reading on Berlin and utopia (any suggestions?) - and I hope to be able to discuss utopianism in the thinkers we've read in our workshop more broadly. Watch this space?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Workshop: 22 May

All invited to our concluding meeting, where we'll discuss all the texts we have read so far.

Please blog here (or e-mail me) a brief description of what you made of the reading group - favourite texts, ideas you find interesting and/or that you think merit further discussion, anything you want to flag up in this session.