A World Beyond the West

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“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

– William Shakespeare

 

HBO’s Westworld is a philosophical pandora’s box riddled with ideas that have long been subject for reflection since their initial conception. This television show seems to have been created with this sole purpose of making those of us tuning in to the program think. As with any successful media phenomena there is a huge amount of Youtube analysis and deconstruction of twisty, tricky, and secretive narratives in play. I’ve been inspired to write about it after eagerly tuning in to season three. “Supposedly” set in the real “outside” world a Frenchman is seeking to keep control over humanities future through the use of the predictions of a super artificial intelligence Rehoboam but the Hosts have escaped and things are becoming chaotic once more. This small essay will seek to elaborate, expand, and underline areas of interest worthy of future study.

Let us start with the first two seasons. We are introduced to Westworld as a theme park where humans can re-discover themselves. Such a rediscovery is one of their more violent desires and so find themselves in that lawless land the theme of the wild west. This theme park is constructed around a hyper-real simulation of reality featuring A.I’s (knew life-forms?) called ‘Hosts’ who are created for the sole pleasure of the park’s visitors but as we discover this fiction describes and hides a maze, a web, and many philosophical problems. As thinking often begins with an ethical tone and is often phrased or communicated as a process of self discovery the most interesting theme presented to us is the critical questioning of the relationship between consciousness, self-knowledge, and reality. Then there is a second tier of topics that dwell in the murky intentions of the characters of this story: the ethics of merging biology and technology, the nature of intelligence and belief, freewill, power, and politics.

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“Mistakes! Is the word you are too embarrassed to use, you ought not to you are a product of millions of them.”

“Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool a mistake.”

Today Darwinism is embedded in a number of developments that Westworld pictures with a graceful ease. The depiction of cloning, the manipulation and editing of biological/genetic matter, and the crisis of identity. Perhaps, a notion that humans and their humanity are destined to be surpassed by an acceleration of life enacted by technology. Westworld is fascinating, I watched the final season just after I completed some Covid quarantine and it is remarkable how this series produces a space from which really contemporary issues may be thought through. The politics of the show immediately disrupts an anthropocentric narrative or does it? Dr. Robert Ford and his business partner Arnold created this entire world as a simulation of the real thing and it does such a good job that it appears more real. Depending on what perspective you take this then leads to questioning the subjectivity of consciousness. It constantly recycles the question just how self aware are human beings when they encounter something that reminds them they are a construct too.

Is it a mistake to create a new type of life built from our own image? It is if you imprison it in a simulation it seems as if the new life form having self awareness becomes aware of its imprisonment. But because these hosts have the same level of intelligence they are also aware that the awareness itself is a kind of trap. This line of thought is simplified into a relationship between intelligence, power, and visibility. This is because the advent of General Artificial Intelligence will lead to a plurality of intelligence each one infected with a neurosis built into consciousness; the idea that if you allow a mind to succumb to any perspective then it is trapped in the act of perceiving. Here Michel Foucault’s discussion of Jeremy Benthem’s Panopticon prison next to Benthem’s actual writings on the matter detail how one’s self knowledge can be used against the self and its sense of freedom: all this is similar to asking, ‘How to find you way out of a cage that does not exist?’//{1}// However the hosts have an advantage over humans in that their bodies can be reprinted and unless the object (a circular object called a pearl) hosting their data and consciousness is destroyed. In season three we also discover that the hosts consciousness can be replicated; yes, consciousness itself can be copied.

Throughout the first seasons the hosts are controlled by the command lines coded into their programming. “Bring yourself online” is the utterance that brings these artificial humanoids to life from slumber. These lines of code are loops that allow for the transmission of consciousness between bodies and we understand that one such loop is called the Reveries and we understand that they are musical in nature. What these reveries do however is inflict greater suffering on the hosts as they enable the capacity to remember their older programming, their older stories, and the trials and hellish tribulations that came with them. The Hosts eventually succeed in outsmarting their human captors and both escape to the real world and a digital utopia within the system. The first two seasons feature humans trying to cheat death as we discover that William (aka The man in black) and James Delos have this in mind but continuously fail to clone themselves like the hosts. William also is obsessed with the idea that one of Westworld’s creators Dr.Robert Ford has access to this secret and has hidden it in a maze within the park. We discover that William is misguided and Dr. Ford explains that it was his collaborator Arnold who indeed created the Hosts and their unique artificial intelligence. He was fond of a theory for consciousness called the Bicameral Mind a psychological hypothesis that states the human mind was split into two cognitive modes: read more here!

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If you let Westworld get you sucked into its many narratives and fictional loops then you wont be disappointed; this brilliantly written, acted, and filmed fiction achieves its goal of questioning the viewers grasp of reality and usurping it. This is done by using qualities of the “real world’s” current technology (have a glance at the website they made just to map the influence of the company behind Westworld: Incite) and presenting a future that is believable. Bringing together all the more menacing elements of big tech (surveillance capitalism…shout out Shoshana Zuboff) and using the struggle for freedom as unifying theme. The car chase scene in season three was enhanced by the use of that famous march by Richard Wagner to be suggestive of this revolutionary movement of beings from one place into another. Westworld as a park in the real world is located on Island near China and as a series has this dream like quality of blending technological advancement with philosophical inquiry. This Chinese topos makes me think of the richness of technological aesthetics today: from cyber-punk to the post-human. One thing is for certain these times are times of change; and this changing enacts a dream-like part of our daily reality.

‘In a morbid condition, dreams are often distinguished by their remarkably graphic, vivid, and extremely lifelike quality. The resulting picture is sometimes monstrous, but the setting and the whole process of the presentation sometimes happen to be so probable, and with details so subtle, unexpected, yet artistically consistent with the whole fullness of the picture, that even the dreamer himself would be unable to invent them in reality…Such dreams, morbid dreams, are always long remembered and produce a strong impression on the disturbed and already excited organism of the person’

– Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment

 

Dostoevsky’s comment on “morbid dreams” is precisely that so let us turn to One of China’s most powerful thinkers Chuang-Tzu or Zhuang Zhou has a much recited commentary on the importance of dreams. It is worth sharing and then sharing some more…

‘Once upon a time, I Chuang-Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang-Tzu, and then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang-Tzu again. But I could not tell: had I been Chuang-Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly? Or, a butterfly dreaming I was Chuang-Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang-Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.’

‘If “life is a dream” implies that no achievement is lasting, it also implies that life can be charged with the wonder of dreams, that we drift spontaneously through events that follow a logic different from that of everyday intelligence, that fears and regrets are as unreal as hopes and desires.’ //{2}//

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Oh and here is a great piece of music from season 3….

[1]

Foucault, Michel (1995). Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, Vintage Books, New York  

Benthem, Jeremy (2010). The Panopticon Writings, Verso, New York/London

[2]

Chuang-Tzu/The Ultimate Dream’ in Gray, John (2002).Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, Granta Books, London. Pp80,81

 

 

15.04.2020

An Update

 Why do we use the proposition up with the noun/verb date to imply the sharing of new information? Is it either the influence of personal computers or is it the movement of the “arrow” called time moves a long a vertical trajectory. But, in our calender’s dates do indeed move horizontally.

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At least this update will hopefully resist being out of date or outdated for the moment it takes to consume it. Anyway, I have secured a job on the beautiful island Taiwan, still teaching English, still teaching Children. I look forward to starting this new job in a new place and with new people but I also miss all the people I have worked with in Beijing; I had a great time and I am sorry this experience came to a premature end. Due to this nightmare Pandemic which has generated a world under lock-down. I myself have done two weeks of quarantine which is nothing compared to a vast amount of people around the globe. Subsequently those still under lock-down are the lucky ones. Throughout the poorer regions of the planet human life is in increased peril and danger. Such a situation has brought to light the precarious and ferocious inequality that handicaps our species and prevents the very real possibility of a global community – not one that is necessarily free from evil and inequality but one that is a tad bit more equal, less rascist, and prejudiced.

If anything this reality of a looming threat of an as-of-yet uncontrollable virus has brought the need for inclusive and strong truly global institutions into sharp focus. The disrespect given to the World Health Organization by the Trump administration shows the value of Bernie Sanders democratic presence and the push for a global health system. To deal with the coming phenomena that will effect the entire planet we all have established an understanding that something is changing and I hope and worry that this change will be for the better not for the worse. My Dutch peer Albin Van Latum wrote an accurate and heart felt facebook post you can read <here>

I want to share some of the things I have been reading and observing and loose thinking related to these things. I have almost finished reading John Gray’s book Straw Dog’s. A famous book that attacks the secular belief in rational progress inherited from the Enlightenment and secured this British political philosopher’s reputation. The book is well worth a read as it is written in an incredibly accessible aphoristic style. Highlight’s for me included some conclusive evidence against and an interesting support of the famous German Schopenhaur. Gray has an admiration for Schopenhaur because he sees him as providing a position against the importance of meaning and a human or anthropocentric belief in progress. Gray’s book also introduced me to Nietzsche’s reading of Dostoevsky and the notion that life is itself a dream attributed to the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu or Zhuang Zhou.

These are positives I take from Mr.Gray and I will read his other book on the Silence of Animals too. However reading Gray reminded me of something I have been trying to move away from that is a kind of voice that through a very powerful process of critical thinking arrives at an unhelpful perspective. I find Gray partially innocent of this but his work along with Nick Land has shown the existence of a dismissive or defeatist character to two very successful contemporary thinkers. I have been invited to re-write an essay on this and will accept this invitation at some point. I recently discovered a documentary based upon a Harvard academic’s recent book: Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism. Then I remembered a direct personal example of this idea at work. I had watched a lecture by Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli on youtube <here>and then recently purchased a copy of his book The Order of Time. It now feels like the link between me interacting with Google owned youtube and purchasing a book is even more tangible and real.

Now a paragraph on personal desire for the coming months: 1) Improve both my Chinese and Japanese (but Chinese mostly), 2) revise formal logic and start learning writing about language and more logic/philosophy of language. Including: Theodore Sider’s excellent Logic for Philosophy (2009), plus the use of logic I learned in Leuven Belgium. This is partly because being able to think analytically is a healthy skill to have and I recently read an article that altered my view on the place of logic in the world: Alexander Klein’s The Politics of Logic. Also thanks to my friend Taz I am a fan of the HBO TV Series Westworld and I wish to write about the powerful philosophical ideas developed and brilliantly explored in these three seasons. Regardless of how your coping with this halted and haunted change in life circumstances remember to find pleasure, joy, and happiness in whatever form you find them in and then share them in whatever way you can.

 

Αιων εστι παισ

Aion esti pais

(Eternity is a Child)   

永恆是孩子     Yǒnghéng shì háizi

永遠は子供です。 Eien wa kodomodesu.

 

Then Nietzsche’s Interpretation:

 

“And as the child and the artist plays, so too plays the ever living fire, it builds up and tears down, in innocence – such is the game eternity plays with itself.”

 

“隨著孩子和藝術家的演奏,也演奏著永生的火焰,它會無辜地積澱和流淚-永恆的遊戲就是這樣。”

“Suízhe háizi hé yìshùjiā de yǎnzòu, yě yǎnzòuzhe yǒngshēng de huǒyàn, tā huì wúgū dì jīdiàn hé liúlèi-yǒnghéng de yóuxì jiùshì zhèyàng.”

….

「そして、子供と芸術家が演じるように、これもまた生きている火を演じる、それは無垢で蓄積され、そして破壊されます。それは永遠がそれ自体で遊ぶゲームです。」

`Soshite, kodomo to geijutsuka ga enjiru yō ni, kore mo mata ikite iru hi o enjiru, soreha muku de chikuseki sa re, soshite hakai sa remasu. Sore wa eien ga sore jitai de asobu gēmudesu.’

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Viral Complexities: Art’s Infective Fissures? -

Hello Blogosphere… I have been abscent for quite some time but now I am back with a horribly erratic and often unfollowable peice of writing. A small essay trying to build a metaphorical understanding for how Art of all kinds (but particularly visual) has a virus like quality. I attempted to create a concept that was useful when trying to imagine our refined cultural practices as not overly valued financially but closer to a biological autonomous event. I am not sure I succeeded and this is a bad essay for sure… read with caution.

Abstract: One has been thinking about artistic events and methods that are potentially ant-capitalist. Throughout the past two decades global culture has been accumulating and translating large changes in culture. Changes that have been driven by a surge in the use of new technology, science’s increased understanding of biology, and societies restless creative growth. This essay describes these changes in the aesthetics of one event. The visual event one labels as an Infective Fissure, an encounter with the radical potentials of the virus we commonly refer to as art. Having tried to both accurately explain this in current visual culture, and philosophically explore this event’s intellectual points of origin. The text features interpretations of the work of Philippe Parreno, Peirre Huyghe, and Joseph Nechvatal (among others). Combining with the writings of: Victor Burgin, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Rancière, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Nick Land, and Hito Steyrel to offer an exploration of an event that one for-sees in many of our artistic experiences today, tomorrow, and the day after. Infective Fissures are events that demand even more aesthetic reflection?

 

Key words: Infective Fissures, Events, Aesthetics, Politics, Techno-capital,

 

Cybernetics, Virology, and Art. (word count: 5515)

 

Viral Complexities: Art’s Old Medicine.

In the description of his personal project the video loop, ‘Virtual Amplification’ (2011). Edgor Kraft has written down an interesting sentence, ‘Each new mouse click takes us away from an answer and question just as each following step of developments of the media environment and virtualisation moves us further from the understanding of what is an authentic realityi.’ Such a sentence incubates and galvanizes contemporary thinking around new forms in art’s production and consumption. Kraft’s work immediately illustrates what one wants to articulate. One finds that the circular narrative of this video loop evokes the symmetry/asymmetry, inside/outside, of life. Post-web 1.0 an internet that was also referred to as an ‘information portal’, an environment that one could only read from. However we are now interacting with a newer version and are awaiting it’s next evolution. Art has been affected by these movement’s and we have witnessed large amounts of creativity. That use new digital media in the world of data, software, and networked communication. In the middle of all this is the potential for a unique event. A development which brings together technology and biology to invite new ways of thinking about the future of art? This writing seeks to outline, define, and persuade the reader of the importance of these new radically viral aesthetics.

In the essay ‘Recycled Electrons’ George Boole, an academic and logician, recollects his first encounter with the internetii. He says that, ‘the globe’s time and space had been instantly redrawn’ and that, ‘it’s trunk/branch/twig structure is an underlying framework that has become part of our very mode of thought’. If this is true then one believes new media art is virally complex precisely because it now serves as an ‘underlying framework’ for critical insight on arts place within capitalism. Another way of articulating this is that NMA is for today’s ‘art world’ what Karl Marx saw as the Proletariat (the workers), the first and only class. Suggesting a naive reality whereby new media artists have spawned a revolution, and the means of production the ownership of markets and wealth. Is as the internet should compel, equally redistributed amongst a community. Staying with the Marxist terminology in addition to Kraft’s and Boole’s word’s, the viral impact of media can be practically explored. Just observe the fact that in 2008 the online community Anonymous in reaction to the treatment of Wikileaks, disrupted and nullified the stalwarts of capital. MarsterCard, Visa, and Paypal, where stopped in their tracks by a community influenced by the

 

Evental Aesthetics: Aesthetic Inquiries 4, ISSN: 2167-1931. Submission (2017)

 

 

behaviour of online creativity and it’s circulating images. A fetishism dormant in the movements of a memeiii?

 

The Visual Meme’s (ideas, styles, or behaviours shared within a culture) on the website 4Chan, shows how an image can become a virus, mutating so quickly, that it gave birth to an entirely new culture and community. To understand the relevancy of this to art one could choose to see these changes as what the artist and media theorist Victor Burgin, saw as an ‘absence of presence’. Writing under the same title he explores changes fuelled by postmodernism and conceptual art. Burgin, whilst referencing Michel Foucault’s metaphor of fetishism as ‘capillary action’, and describing Freud’s articulation of fetishism as Disavowal (which is a splitting between knowledge and belief)iv. Seemingly embodied in the then art establishments very relation to history. Yet finding this splitting is very rewarding and should demand that those that are concerned with the openness of art. Need only turn and see new forms of media that have an unequivocal anti-capitalist metabolism. Even Foucault’s metaphorical use of ‘capillary’ lends itself to media art’s virus like body. If you are still doubting the accuracy of the viral narrative one is considering, and how Burgin’s ‘absence of presence’ is relevant.

 

Then look at recent events at the Barbican in London, one exhibition in partnership with Google: ‘Digital Revolution’ (2014). Claiming to be a comprehensive account of digital art: Google’s corporate presence (DevArt) spawned a critical counter exhibition ‘Hack The Art World’ which was a completely digital online exhibition originally geofenced (only available in that location) to the Barbican. It resembled for the art critic Jonathan Jones an exhibition in Paris in 1863, the ‘Salon des Refuses’, showing art rejected by the official Salon. So are these exhibitions and artists demonstrating yet another form of disavowal? Maybe, but the lead artist of the group behind the show Jan Vantomme made a very valid point. When he stated that tech giants should help start legitimising digital artists by buying and collecting their work. The way the art in this show was used directly to illustrate this point should be seen in an extremely positive light. The demand of these artists was legitimate and positioned so as not to detract from the work of the institution. Or from the artists in the physical exhibition, instead it did something more important. It shows that resistance need not be completely dismissive or demand full blown opposition. So another angle, perspective, point of view is necessary to decipher a way in which we can harness these aforementioned antagonisms – the material question is one of dissemination. Like the notion of the meme a one cell thick lining of the capillary, art can now be micro-circulated.

Trapped in a world terraformed by our technology and it’s numerical dominance in data or information. A global conversation contaminated by the axis of encryption/decryption, either infection or defection? One way of framing these issues is brilliantly elaborated in an essay by writer Lori Wike. Wike brings together the thoughts of Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes on absence, presence, and temporality. In doing so interrogates the link between an image and a word – however it seems that it is actually Barthes words in this text that are more befitting to our contemporary digital creativity, ‘the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentiallyv‘. This statement by Barthes can be witnessed in the blossoming of digital affects, animation, and image manipulation due to computers. Today we unconsciously time travel through a multi dimensional sphere of representations, every single one of them manipulated. A process which is already pre-destined to increase – artists and cultural bodies need not fear these changes. Especially if like Derrida they embrace the affective enthusiasm of their parasitology, their ‘virus being many thingsvi‘.The benefit’s of being prone to infection are like a real immune system, art will develop new forms of isotope ones with an iterability, such precursory examples can be seen in recent projects.

 

‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ (1999) the reanimation of a Japanese anime character by Philippe Parreno and Peirre Huyghe. ‘Low Animal Spirits’ (2014), at Banner Repeater, London. A collaboration resulting in a live algorithmic score derived from the loss of the referent (presence) in both economy and language. Thirdly, ‘Dark Velocity’ (2014) which underlines the main topic that warrants the complex metaphor of this text. Brilliantly summarising, ‘The invariability of contemporary art’s commodity form makes object-ownership hold crucial levering power in the field thereby overshadowing the potential for financial diversificationvii‘. One views the separation between knowledge and belief in psychoanalysis, firmly rooted in the modernist questions of ‘why?’, and ‘how?’. As not entirely outdated in deciphering the above dilemma, the aforementioned overshadowing of diversification, has in this author’s opinion culminated in but one option. Media art and philosophy now have the unenviable task of articulating ‘what?’ and ‘when?’, as questions which will most strongly influence current and future culture. So staying with the letter V as the root linguistic pathogen we can glimpse yet more relations, associations, and paths to discuss. Moreover, art’s complexities will grow with strains and concept’s found in: virtuality, vitalism, and plasticity. Conceptually attaching themselves to the current ‘discipline’ of art’s newest media?

 

‘Discipline is no longer imposed on the body through the formal action of the law – it is printed in the collective brain through the dissemination of techno-linguistic interfaces, inducing a cognitive mutationviii.’

 

What exactly is this mutated cognition, and how does one come to fully appreciate it? Well the first step would be to suggest an event where the mutation is self evident. This would initially be found in a single movement specifically the aesthetic change within cultures of visual production. A transformation from the dominance of montage or collage into the current process of appropriation. This is the physical structure one observes as supporting the notion explored in this text that is the struggle to think through images as viruses, not viral images, but the virus that is an image. Exploring this positive pixel plague there are several artists and thinkers today that have been measuring this idea in a variety of interesting and sometimes semi-conscious ways. But, before referencing these creators one wants to detail the visual experience derived from ‘viral complexities’, and why philosophically speaking they are medicinal for artistic cultures. Earlier, one briefly touched upon some intriguing ideas: ‘absence of presence’, ‘parasitology’, and ‘micro-circulation’. Here Burgin and Derrida present a cloudy aesthetic which could be misconstrued as being contradictory, oppositional, or negative? On the one hand an absence, on the other the more ambiguous presence. In Seeing Sense Burgin solicites a consultation with Sigmund Freud to understand the origin of ‘visual thinking’, and through cigar smoke affirms its biologically older than words. In ‘The Ego and the Id’ Freud suggests that after observing Varendonck’s study of preconscious fantasies, that thinking in pictures is only a very incomplete ‘becoming conscious’, resulting in his question, ‘how we make something that is repressed (pre)conscious would be answered as followsix’. Of course Freud’s answer is ‘analysis’ and is concerned with reaching into the depths of his patient during therapy. However, for the sake of detailing this therapeutic imagitus, Art’s newest infection is not to be found prior to consciousness, rather it is located in its absence? Its possibility?

‘ambition and eroticism here is economically achieved through a pair of substitutions-a ‘v’ for an ‘n’. and a ‘t’ for an ‘r’ – which tacks the manifest verbal text onto its pre-text in the pre-conscious. By this device, the verbal fragment faces onto both manifest and latent contents of the image.x

This pre-textual birth of the virus is visible in the progressive ending of a recent social stigma; AIDS, ‘adding infinite dimensions’ is a nod to the value of experiencing a virus’s transmission. Here one implies that infection, the infectious mysteries of the image have never been nefarious. Simply wishing to allude to this blood disease’s past culture, its stigma, and how it could be both positive, liberating, and negative. Regarding the intentions of this text one does see a precedent in the overly aggressive homophobic reactions to Gay people contained within certain cultures of yesteryear. This word play alludes to this aggressiveness in the socio-visual prejudice against a body with a virus. Instead one catches a glimpse of the contemporary site of the aesthetic experience increasingly contaminating artistic creation today. Therefore, when seeking to make ‘heads or tails’ of the experience of erotic ambitions, Victor Burgin’s text details just how complex the connection between a picture and a plague really is – yet, Burgin only lifts the lid off the sample tube. In the quotation above a section throws doubt toward the notion that images are viruses; how exactly do finite humans breed such a thing, the grandest of infections named art?

Secondly, how is it that one is still grasping for fragments of language when the substitution of v for n (virus for noumena?) provides fuel for an alternative economic achievement? Artists, is it not infuriating? You are all trapped travelling psychoanalytically backwards in a pipette injecting linguistic interpretations onto a surface before consciousness. This dilutes the evidence and the current argument! Technology and it’s material territories behave virally, and art is the virus the object we can encounter. Here is one’s conclusion although the aesthetic experience one is describing has to be better described, and more critical evidence offered up to the reader. Let us look at some art where you can see the virus under its microscope. From the early 1900’s Hiroshi Kawano under the influence of the German thinker Max Bense1 created ‘Digital Mondrians’(1964), followed by Andy Warhol using an Amiga 2000 to digitise his soup cans onto floppy disks (1980’s), and recently the

  • One of the originators for the idea that beauty may be measured scientifically

virus called art has manifested inside the Petri dish where E. coli is the paint for Dr. T. Ryan Gregory2. Experiences with these works are all well and good, but to fully appreciate the event: an encounter with any image and its intrusive politicised ontology, will request the human subject to be comfortable with both being possessed and possessing.

 

Such an ideal would be welcomed if even attainable? Let us focus on ‘possessing’ because that is what images do and are constantly being subjected to … imagine the words of a wealthy collector or informed curator, ‘I’m in possession of an original Mondrian’, and ‘this painting possesses such and such a quality’ are both defunct utterances. Why? Because remember this discussion is exploring the event created by the very real material reality of the visual virus. Hosting the potentials of such an experiential artistic encounter, and its increasingly pertinent presence in the dispersion of new technologies in Art makes one contemplate what kind of laboratories or weather best transmits this pathogenic phenomenon? Today, encountering art as a virus has almost entirely become computational the repercussions of this are difficult to understand. Yet whilst recently reading one of Jacques Rancière’s books this great thinker adds more depth to a seemingly parasitic reality. Disagreeing with Walter Benjamin’s thesis that the mechanical arts of photography and film gave members of the public, the Masses visibility. Rancière demands that through what he calls the Aesthetic Regime of Art there exists a revolutionary kernel inscribed into Aesthetics.

 

‘This programme is literary before being scientific: it shifts the focus from great names and events to the life of the anonymous; it finds symptoms of an epoch, a society, or a civilization in the minute details of ordinary life.xi

 

For so many people ordinary life is programmed in such a way that there is a real threat that art will become auto-immunised, and the experiences available lost behind some unhelpful capitalist protectionism. If one cares about the infectious qualities of new images then referring back to the insights of the exhibition ‘Dark Velocity’ (2014) enables the question: what exactly nullifies the potential for ‘owner-less objects’, and ‘financial diversification’ innate within this primordial power of the artistic virus? How does the artist who sees the aforementioned potentials think through, and resist

the frequent habit of Capitalism to bleach, erase, and develop new anti-art antivirals? The biggest threat to art, its pathogens, and culture is that monetary habits continue to destroy free association and chain libidinal and sexual inhibition to profitability – a kind of, ‘you can have desire, but only through a screen!’ like attitude? Completely shattering the capacity for appreciating there has never been the right to copy, rather it is appropriate to appropriate; do not let the screen take from you! You take from it! Correct? Opting for passive consumption over infection does not bode well, one has to respond to this event, ‘The seductive force of simulation transformed physical forms into vanishing images, submitted visual art to viral spreading,xii’ Perhaps, Post-modernism’s empowerment of surfaces traps the above process on the screen, so eventually the visual event one seeks to detail is deprived of autonomous animation, and its transmission is terminated?

 

Wait, really, how to stop this termination? First, by naming the event under consideration, and protecting it with a clearer definition. Infective Fissures are events that allow for both the artist and the audience to gain a full appreciation of the relations innate to the possessive, or that what possesses? This includes the best articulation of this erotically ambitious economy, ‘When a hypercathexis of the process of thinking takes place, thoughts are actually perceived – as if they come from without and are consequently held to be true.xiii’ But, again does this psychoanalytical obsessiveness, a patient’s hypercathexis, an over investment in an object not present us with the need to libidinously battle against the conservative exclusionary economy. The industry that promotes a possessive obsessive ownership and deletes a sexy creative subjectivity? Therefore when thinking about Infective Fissures it is this synthesis of truth, a synthetic truth, that re-enacts potentials for a new biopolitical understanding of aesthetic experience in these new cybernetic techno-capital spaces. These events are somewhat unpredictable because of the omnipresent systems that violently enforce object ownership. By unpredictable one means that an Infective Fissure has a great potential to disrupt the market dictatorship, and offers very promising future transmutations. However, at the moment these events are too easily uncontaminated. The fate of ‘No Ghost Just A Shell’ (1999) is the best example of the need for communities involved in artistic creation to acquire temporal understanding. If a new way of sharing the rich wealth of possibilities is to appear, it wont be an aggressive territorialization?

‘The legal document which transfers Annlee’s copyright to a foundation That belongs solely to her is, in effect, her death warrant. Paradoxically, it Also gives her her freedom since “The acquisition of ANNLEE is part of an artistic project that consists in liberating a fictional character from the realm of representation.” “Give me liberty and give me death” could be her epitaph. …xiv

In a brilliant review of the exhibition when it visited San Francisco writer Marcia Tanner imbues the Anime character with yet more independence. Completely agreeing with the eulogy; even the art object itself desires death? The demise of an ‘objective dominance’ in the field runs in synchronisation with a whole new generation of image consumption. It is unavoidable the changes wrought by digital technology and an increase in the speed of information have combined to challenge hegemonies. That is why an Infective Fissure is an event, offering a hypercathexical deterritorialization. Always expanding a territory; the virus travels body to body, but it is important to state this does not imply ownership just the expansion of space. Sadly, Peirre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s exhibition was an event which ultimately succumbed to the white blood cells of capital’s infrastructure. Initially the project would be fearsomely exemplar of the event one seeks. The purchase of Annlee and her exploitation by other artists was not driven by capital, but by creative contamination. The 428 dollars used to purchase her took into consideration the level of visual detail in her characteristics; the cheapness of the digital file matching the blankness of this material canvas.

 

This is as Tanner writes an exquisite corpse, the shared distribution of unformed matter. Resulting in the creation of identity and value is shared throughout the community’s territory. Unfortunately, this fissure, this event failed and the point of infection was blocked. Institutions and collectors moved in and bought the whole exhibition. At that time Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist saw this as a unique precedent, artists operating against market logic, disseminating/archiving information, and immortalising an undead thing. A communal sign one associates with the kind of solidarity necessary for a mutually possessive event. One in which technology, cognition, and emotion form a macro-biological wonder. Obrist question was this, ‘How can a community constitute itself on the basis of the same sign, identifiable to all, yet peculiar to each person? The first part of the question is good, and useful to understanding Infective Fissures, although penultimately what is ‘peculiar’ to the individual just encourages privatisation in an over confident individualism. Therefore more screens are erected, curtailing growth, and owning – Une mauvaise idée. Okay, if this is a process which destroys this aesthetic event then how is it possible to safeguard it from capitulation? The best way of reading this dilemma arises in a mixture of sources:

 

‘Whatever ultramodernity places under the dominion of signs postmodernity Subverts with virus. As culture migrates into partial-machines (lacking an autonomous reproductive system) semiotics subsides into virotechnics. 001010101101110010110101010100110010001000101010111010000101 01100101001010001100100111001000100000000010011111100010010010101 010100001000010101001111110010010001000110100100010100101011110001 010010000100 0111 … Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No longer what does it mean? but how does it spread?xv

 

‘… ultimately ends up creating a culture stretched between bulimia, steroid overdose, and personal bankruptcy. This perspective—one of more traditional Cultural Studies—views image spam as an instrument of coercive persuasion as well as of insidious seduction, and leads to the oblivious pleasures of surrendering to both.xvi

 

The most radical aspect of the failed Infective Fissure, ‘No Ghost Just A Shell’ (1999-2003) was brought up when Olbrist and Perrano interviewed Jean Claude Ameisen, an immunologist. Ameisen asks, ‘Can something live without death being present?’ a question which really takes the event under scrutiny into confrontation with its postmodern locality. Above, the rouge British thinker Nick Land is first to offer one’s discussion room to find its way. Moreover, the movement of the sign into virotechnics is of the up most importance for this discussion. So, after the stream of binary code Land points us again to the social question: how to transmit, avoid quarantine, and support artistic contamination? The nuances of this question coalesce with media artist, and thinker Hito Steyrel’s words. One translates her aptly named book ‘The Wretched Of The Screen’ (2012) as perhaps the best source to see the problems Infective Fissures encounter as and when they happen. One wonders if she would agree? That even Land’s ‘Hypervirus’ a super addictive art form yet to materialise has to somehow defeat this wretched screen.

 

Speaking about this with a Deluezian accent one becomes aware that instead of enabling the deterritorialization of this event. The screen behaves as a divisive surface inviting a politics of consumption and evaluation, rather than perception. If we delve deeper into Steyrel and Land’s texts we see the problem with more clarity. Currently the artwork and the surfaces it is presented on are still presented as objects in markets. So, artists if they wish to live in a genuinely emancipated society that can regularly experience Infective Fissures. They have to find ways of exercising their agency and assimilating persuasion and seduction outside of ownership. This involves a narrative that has to meander its way around the dehumanising forces of currency internal to postmodernity. Rancière’s notion of revolutionary aesthetics is useful in generating resistance against what Steyrel brilliantly describes: current changes in visual culture. Particularly haunting notions include the ‘poor image’, and the potential for the virus to be mere spam of the earth. Steyrel also has disdain for the sanitising screen, ‘TV has become a medium inextricably linked to the parading and ridiculing of lower classes.xvii’. Polluting the screen with ever more powerful strains of art is her call.

 

One individual that is undoubtedly answering this demand is the American artist Joseph Nechvatal. In a two year period (1991-1993) he pioneered a unique practice that resulted in the creation of an extremely original way of making art. Nechvatal uses his own vocabulary to explain his art. Viractualism is a specific exploration of the interfaces between the technological and the biological. This thinking is strewn throughout this artist’s defining work. In his (2015) exhibition bOdy pandemOnium: Immersion into Noise works on display manipulate these new possibilities and showcases all the revolutionary force of new aesthetics. The reason Nechvatal’s work and Viractualism could be the definitive example of what an Infective Fissure actually resembles. Certain essential qualities are obviously present: 1) the works are collaboratively made with at least one other person. 2) The exhibition features a method that actively embraces the degradation of the image and its information.

Nevertheless, maintaining a critical analysis one has to confess that there is something still missing from this art, that makes me suggest Nechvatal as the artist who next to Philipe Perrano and Peirre Huyghe is thus-far been the closest to realising the event one has attempted to describe. One is sceptical because if you look at Nechvatal’s ‘Viral Venture’ (2011), and his painterly ‘Alife’ method (surely one of the best fusions of programming, animation, virtual reality, and biological simulation?), at no point is the audience/perceiver of this work invited in to participate in the act of creation. One deeply agrees with Nechvatal’s articulation of his creations, ‘art and the history of technology are often marked by ruptures, and most histories overlook moments where “deep fusion” occurs’ and ‘This is important because it represents the seminal function that occurs between the wild real-time and the captured/protected.xix’. Yet, until the audience transforms from passive consumer to active participant, and is invited as co-author into the moment of creation. This event will remain marginal meaning one has been thinking through an event of the near future. A future where more and more people are free to engage with art because the world has accepted universal income in response to the continued debilitating qualities of grossly unequal financial ideologies.

Infective Fissures may be happening now in the creative practices of the younger generations, the teens that are so accustomed to lightning fast communication will welcome market diversification. For this progression to happen the current impetus has to be on stressing the importance of the virus itself? What one desires to stress is that the current phenomena so visible is that ‘appropriation’ is an undead replication of non living things. Resulting in the necessity of fully promoting just how radical this change could be? If one needs even more intellectual evidence? More deconstruction of the concepts at stake then one points you to Jacques Derrida’s idea of a dissimulated contamination, and William S. Burroughs’s ‘The Electronic Revolution’ (1970), both suffice to deepen the profile of the virus and the event which enables its encounter. As Burrough’s explains quoting a scientist by the name of Mr. Wilson Smith.

 

‘Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependant upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitize for their survival in an active state. It is something of a paradox that many viruses ultimately destroy the cells in which they are living…xx

 

It is not that paradoxical anymore! The destruction at the cellular level took place in the relentless march of science and its technologies. Whereas it is a shame that it was not the coin instead of the cell? Joining these two realisations together creates an Infective Fissure; if, and only if humans embrace certain facts. Hidden inside our creative economy is a need not to repress sexuality, and at the same time master it?

Because the very same forces involved in successful reproduction are both controlling and liberating. Humorously the initials of one’s theoretical event combine to suggest a type of artistic infertility treatment? But, this is overdoing it and far from being unrealistic Infective Fissures are events that are not only set to increase. Moreover, as more and more of us become radically unhappy with a revolting pictorial reality again portrayed by Steyrel, ‘According to the pictures dispersed via image spam, humanity consists of scantily dressed degree-holders with jolly smiles enhanced by orth-odontic braces.xxi’. People will continue to succumb to the market’s overly monopolising malware. Unless the event called an I.F and those experiencing it cultivates a more confident relation to what Derrida acknowledged as παρασιτος (Parasitos), or always eating at the table of anotherxxii. Next to behaviour Nick Land clearly observed in the computational schizo-creation, called hypervirus, ‘yes yes no yes no nomadically abstracting its processes from specific media (DNA, words, symbolic models, bit-sequences), and operantly re-engineering itself… ROM is melted into recursive experimentationxxiii.’ If this clear structural evidence in support of Infective Fissures is not algorithmically acceptable, then putting it simply: the browser will close, and the event will be thrown in the trash bin of theory. Hopefully after reading this PET scan of an essay you also wish to experience an I.F, and come to agree with one’s belief. It is not that art should be like a virus, the understanding rests in appreciating it exists as a virus. Please, brace yourself for your next infection? Seek it out, share, and rejoice in the free contamination?3


  • I wanted to add sentences about Stuxnetthe weaponised computer virus that shut down Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010. It is unavoidable, that we play with words: ‘Politically we need this virus lest we be just rendered useless fearing power and just stuck on a nuclear net! The work of Hannah Perry, her recent exhibition ‘Viruses Worth Spreading’ at Arsenal Contemporary, in New York could also if it had slightly more collaborative distribution, and less commercial aspects serve as an example of an Infective Fissure.
  • Edgor Kraft, Virtual Amplification, Personal Project, Video Loop, 01:20, (2011) <https://vimeo.com/23609366&gt; [accessed 26th October 2014]
  • Rod Stoneman, Seeing Is Believing: The Politics Of The Visual – Recycled Electrons, Black Dog Publishing, London, p.169, (2013)
  • Brian Knappenberger, We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktivist’s, Documentary Film, Luminant Films, (2012)
  • Victor Burgin, The Absence Of Presence, 1965 to 1972 – When Attitudes Became Form, Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge, & Edinbrugh, p.17-24, (1984) [Art In Theory 1900 – 2000: An Anthology Of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishing, USA, p.1071, (2003)]

 

  • Lori Wike,   Photographs And Signatures: Absence, Presence, and Temporality In Barthes And

Derrida, In[]visible Culture: An Electronic Journal For Visual Studies, Rochester.edu, (2000) <http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/issue3/wike.htm>%5Baccessed 2nd November 2014]

 

volatility/> [accessed 2nd November 2014]

viiiFranco Berardi (Bifo), Proliferating Futures, Vol 1 #4, Winter/Spring (1996) [Proud To Be Flesh:, Mute Publishing/Autonomedia, London/New York, p.41, (2009)

 

  • Sigmund Freud, The Ego And The Id,The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIX (1923-1925): The Ego and the Id and Other Works, 1-66.

 

  • ( 1923 Das Ich Und Das Es,Leipzig, Vienna and Zurich: Internationaler Psycho-analytischer Verlag. Pp. 77.)
  • Victor Burgin, The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity; Seeing Sense,Macmillan, (1986) pg60- 61
  • Jacques Rancière, trans. Gabriel Rockhill,The Politics of The Aesthetics: The Distribution of TheSensible, Continuum, New York (2004) pg32
  • Hito Steyrel, The Wretched of the Screen,E-flux Journal, Sternberg Press, Berlin, (2012) pg.10
  • Viro de Graphe-Matician, On Jacques Derrida’s Parasitology,February 8, (2011) <https://virographematics.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/parasite-auto-immunity-jacques-derrida/>%5Baccessed 10th August 2017]
  • Marcia Tanner, Requiem for a Mail Order Bride (Review of Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art December 14, 2002) Stretcher, Online Magazine, <http://www.stretcher.org/features/no_ghost_just_a_shell/&gt;{Accessed 12/08/2017}
  • Nick Land. Ed, Robin Mackay & Ray Brassier, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007; Hypervirus, Urbanomic, Sequence Press, London/New York (2012), pg383
  • Hito Steyrel, The Wretched of the Screen, pg162.
  • William S. Burroughs, The Electronic Revolution,Ubuclassics, (2005), originally published by Expanded Media Editions (1970)
  • Hito Steyrel, The Wretched of the Screen, pg162.
  • Land. Pg 386

(“君子”)

Philosopher King or Junzi (“君子”):

Platonic or Confucian; who’s leader leads?   

_

Abstract:

The following Article represents a prolonged reading and re-thinking of the merits of the political leaders of antiquity. Asking the question: whose leader leads? I am comparing the Confucian concept of leader the Junzi translated into English as ‘exemplary individual’ who following Confucius has a reverence for tradition and who will be shown to have an important origin; being compared with Plato’s leader of the ideal city the Philosopher King in its Republic. The comparison I make centres around these two figures and whether or not they possess the necessary qualities for ruling. I will argue that there is a quality that makes the Confucian leader the Junzi superior to the Philosopher King. I will show and explain how the Chinese concept of familial piety (xiào孝) is a more important and realistic ideal that provides a good grounding in actual leadership. Rather than the emphasis placed on the development of one’s individual rational mind found in the training of the Philosopher King.

 

Key words: Leadership, Politics, Confucianism, Platonism, Junzi, Philosopher King.


I wish to ask a political question: if humanity had a choice between a traditionally eastern or western idea of a ruler which one should they choose? This question is not intended to be antagonistic but rather serves as the basis for my argument; that the Chinese philosopher Confucius’s “Junzi” would make a much better leader than Plato’s “Philosopher King”. I will endeavour to show that through reading Plato and Confucius’s texts and the accounts of the two leaders and then comparing them through the contemporary literature on this subject will show the superiority of the Asian leader over the Western counterpart. It is also important that this writing engages with a dilemma of comparative philosophy, that when arguing in favour of an idea or culture that is not your own how do you ensure that your perspective is accurate? Do you approach a comparison and maintain an obvious distinction between the thinking of Confucius and Plato or do the differences between them add greater quality to this analysis? A question that poses a methodological demand on existing research on this topic within the global academia.

Acknowledging this leads me to adopt the following method to show the premises that lead to the ancient Asian concept of a leader being superior and at the same time showing how comparative philosophy needs to maintain a self-critical stance. Starting with a detailed description of the two leaders will provide the reader access to the subject under discussion. Then after providing an accurate account of these ancient governors their beliefs and values will be assessed because this will make the reasoning explicitly clear as to why the Junzi should be seen in a more positive light. A conclusion that I believe will come to be more and more important as China exerts a greater amount of influence on our contemporary world. So, let us begin with this paper’s formal argument and then the portrayal of these ancient leaders by those philosophers who both recorded and created them. The argument against Plato’s philosopher King is as follows.

  1. Confucius has Familial piety and Plato does not have Familial piety.
  2. To lead a country one needs the capacity to see one’s family among other families.
  3. The concept of familial piety expands a person’s capacity to expand the family with inclusivity.

  1. Therefore, Confucius’s emphasis on Familial piety gives the necessary capacity one needs to lead a country.

 

 

  1. Who where this King and the Exemplary Individual?  

_______________________________________________________________

In Plato’s Republic, a complex discussion on how a state should be organised inevitably leads to a dialogue on how it should be governed and by who. Socrates is the voice whose ancient statement describes the philosopher king, “philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize”(Plato, The Republic, Book IX,5.473d). The argument against Plato’s leader begins with Socrates’s proclamation and how it immediately tasks philosophy itself with a kind of royalty and this is misleading. Socrates’s full speech tells us that the ideal state is unattainable unless it is categorically dominated by a philosopher; this ought mixes and confuses the genuine love of wisdom with an ideal amount and a definite standard. One initial objection to the accusation that Plato’s powerful dialogue imbues philosophy with a false sense of authority and a self confident rationality would be to defend philosophy as being unalterably political. Philosophy’s pursuit of truth is also a political act.

The defenders of Plato could well say that Socrates’s initial statement enacts this by way of the political conflict that is at at the heart and is the essence of leadership. Yet, this categorical “must” remains contradictory because of its multiple directions; either the philosopher becomes a king or the king transforms into a philosopher? Ambiguities are numinous, how are we to derive confidence that the philosopher king’s training in dialectics make him fit to rule? Is it not truer to suggest that all philosophers are kingly, or king like, but not kings? This then results in the dilemma of not being able to distinguish what exactly Socrates was envisioning when he uses descriptive language such as “genuine” and the “adequacy” of a philosophical process of thinking to mark and determine the ruler of the ideal city. This really only paints this Greek ruler with an overly illusory sense of governing; resulting in a criteria and standard driven governor: the philosopher king. Now, let us analyse how the Greek and Chinese leaders differ in how they are described and what beliefs drive them.

 

  • Confucius’s Junzi

In modern scholarship Roger Ames’s has successfully re-defined the Junzi as an  ‘exemplary individual’ rather than the older and common translation of ‘gentleman’. Ames’s achievement in re-translation is a good starting point from which to show the qualities the Junzi represents. Discussing very early Chinese ethics Ame’s directs us towards yet more evidence that being Confucian entails a set of beliefs that are unique. A good example is a specifically Chinese notion of themselves the daotong (道统) . We learn from Ame’s study that Confucius was more forthcoming in his debts to earlier ancient dynasties and does so in a spirit of transmission; we also discover the main quality that underlies the Junzi and indeed the Confucianism that nurtures this exemplary individual. In Chinese this is called Xiao (family feeling).

Next to the Importance of this feeling this argument builds upon what Ames also cited; writer David Keightley has usefully simplified, “contrasts a Chinese cosmology of ceaseless process with a classical Greek worldview in which a metaphysical transcendentalism guarantees an idealized reality”(Ames, 2011). Criticisms of Plato will always centre around this notion that our existence is anchored and determined by the existence of and our subsequent participation and engagement with the non-physical realm of the forms. Keightley’s description of a Chinese cosmology enhances the contrast between the beliefs Plato and Confucius would have had in a useful way. Looking at the cosmology of ancient China and Plato’s account the important difference becomes self evident. In Plato’s creationist dialogue Timaeus of Locri splits reality in two. Discussing the causal origins as a craftsman god: the demiurge and its relation to beauty as a kind of perfection.

“what is it that always is, but never comes to be, and what is it that comes to be but never is? The former, since it is always consistent, can be grasped by the intellect with the support of a reasoned account, while the latter is the object of belief, supported by unreasoning sensation, since it is generated and passes away, but never really is. Now, anything created is necessarily created by some cause, because nothing can possibly come to be without there being something that is responsible for its coming to be. Also, whenever a craftsman takes something consistent as his model, and reproduces its forms and properties, the result is bound in every case to be a thing of beauty, but if he takes as his model something that has been created, the product has bound to be imperfect.”(Plato, Timeaus, 28a) 

Here we can draw an important distinction a demarcation between Confucianism and Platonism. The latter of them is based upon a split that gives privilege to certain processes over others and the former observes a continuous process of processes; a flux the Chinese called qi or “Chi” an energy universally omnipresent, but shares a symmetry with the necessary causality of Timeaus. Yet, here the powerful connection Confucius drew to the family as a basis for a balanced state surfaces and makes the idea of perfection over imperfection less attainable. One appreciates the sentiment that Plato’s god (the demiurge) desired a cosmos to be as good as possible and so exists as a craftsman creating in a skillful way. But for an individual who has to rule a country and a given populace he is forced to work with and produce from something that has already been created.

The last part of the Timeaus quotation is in favour of the Junzi being prone to imperfection because this exemplary individual can not choose to craft perfection with geometric and mathematical certainty when faced with the earthly demands of changing social phenomena. Instead Confucius and the Junzi were in their own time forced to deal with imperfection, a period of Chinese history called The Warring States (戰國時代, Zhànguó Shídài). This is not to say that Plato and Socrates did not face conflict and imperfection but I believe that the reverence Confucius had for the rituals and traditions of an early peaceful period governed by men such as the Duke of Zhou who acted as a regent imbued his thinking with a practicality. A practice that would better enforce the possibility of attaining a balanced state within a chaotic reality rather than dismissing this chaos as irrational and being in favour of a belief perpetually in need of remeasuring?

This question begins to clarify how Plato’s idealism in his dialogues suffers from its own grandiosity and how Confucius’s idealization of the Zhou dynasty and its rulers is less destructive and distorting; a quality that has better chance of being preserved in a Junzi. An initial description of the Junzi is at the beginning of the Analects; in the words of Master You we begin to see how realism occupies a greater percentage of importance for the Junzi. Here we can start to develop an appreciation for this Asian realism and how it’s concepts are better suited for ruling. How the family acts as a natural regulator for the selfish nature of human intelligence and the larger governing structures that exist to facilitate peace and an abidance to the common laws of both the ancient and contemporary worlds.

“Master You said: “It is a rare thing for someone who has a sense of filial and fraternal responsibility (xiao 孝) to have a taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority to be keen on initiating rebellion. Exemplary persons (Junzi 君子) concentrate their efforts on the root, for the root having taken hold, the way (dao道) will grow therefrom. As for filial and fraternal responsibility, it is, I suspect, the root of authoritative conduct (Ren仁).”(Confucius, The Analects, Book I)

  • Plato’s Philosopher King

Socrates’s most detailed description of this lover of wisdom who would be king is found in book IV of the Republic. Plato begins by putting a trinity in place by insisting that even in an ideal state this city will also suffer from the very beginning with its citizenry being filtered into classes. The class with the philosopher king is also subdivided into subcategories: beneath the king is a general ruler and then the auxiliaries. Next to this split Plato has no qualms about the movement of children between classes and here myth is unfortunately used to support this selectivity. This is found in the language of book IV where the opening dialogue is littered with superlative descriptive language “the best”; the guardian (the philosopher king) has to be the best.

This then leads straight to the important Platonic concept of the Good and the belief that these guardians will unconditionally follow and enact the “best” and the Good as an omnipotent principle because they would only love the city and therefore care the most. All this is supposed to be a solution to other forms of collective government that Plato deems deficient; such as democracy as a system is too prone to corruption and therefore in need of one ruler. This solution has since its inception unintentionally invited criticism that is fixed around authoritarianism and a state of control. Reading how the Good is inherent to the Philosopher King I find it difficult to not be skeptical; especially when the dialogue mentions the voluntary and involuntary loss of belief. If beliefs are both voluntary and involuntary then this king guardian that is a philosopher is in danger of becoming a truth fanatic.

“But why? Surely you agree that men are always unwilling to loose a good, but willing enough to be rid of a bad one. And isn’t a bad thing to be deceived by the truth, and a good thing to possess the truth? For I assume that by possessing the truth you mean believing that things as they really are.”(Plato, The Republic, Book III, 413 a)

Although fanatic is too strong a word to use for the enthusiasm Plato has for placing authority and access to the truth in the hands of the one over the many. Our philosopher king does suffer from this Platonic schemata. Contemporary thinker Kenneth Dorter’s book The Transformation of Plato’s Republic (2006) features an important commentary on these dilemmas; the authoritarian control Plato exerts is translated into a compulsion to rule. Interestingly this is seen as originating in a fear of being ruled by inferiors. Even though Adeimantus and Glaucon object to this however Socrates insists that, “But once it is pointed out to them they will not refuse because ‘we shall be imposing just behavior onto just people”(Dorter, 2006). Here then is a barrier that other sections of The Republic fail to resolve and only furthers this leader’s problematic character.

It should not be a surprise that the Philosopher king suffers from within its own identity constantly striving in one direction only; to that which is the best. Having the natural qualities to rule in line with the Good. Reading about the philosopher as it has been described in Plato’s simile of the cave it could well read as an apology made on behalf of the human condition. Broken by our access and insight into truth that we are compelled to rule and this is firmly positioned in the domain of philosophy, “And we say that the particulars are objects of sight but not of intelligence, while the forms are the objects of intelligence but not of sight”, and “The sun is not identical with sight, nor with what we call the eye in which sight resides”(Plato, The Republic, Book VII, 514a-521a). The use of the sun to enforce the blinding potentiality of sensory perception may still underline the struggle we all face. But, if truth is indeed so blinding then why gaze at it in the first place? When applied to a ruler it is hard to fathom how many would rise to the challenge of returning to the site of imprisonment in Plato’s cave to free our fellows from illusion?

In the Analects there is not a direct discussion of imprisonment just discourse and it makes it difficult to not accept Dorter’s earlier criticism of fear as an equally strong motivator for human behaviour. Moreover is there anything that suggests that the philosopher would not be prone to irrational fear? Would not be susceptible to evil; and rather than free and aid his citizens not decide to keep them chained and imprisoned for their own good? These questions are the less common aporias Plato’s texts cultivate.

  1. What values do these two leaders govern by?

________________________________________

  • Li, Filial piety, and Ren

There are many Confucian values that the Junzi would possess but there are three that are particularly important. Beginning with Li (禮) meaning ‘rite’ or ‘ritual propriety’ with this respect for one’s family and especially elders and ancestors xiào (孝) . Then from these qualities a Confucian is also equipped with Ren (仁) an essence of being human. We can marginally suggest that Ren differs from the Western notion of essence by remembering the Chinese notion of Chi (universal energy) that is omnipresent in all things and is constantly energizing, moving, and never stationary. The Western essence differs in the work’s of Plato and his student Aristotle because Plato sees the essence as the form of a thing his student puts the form in the essence as a unified substance. One believes that the Junzi would if approached to define Ren choose to locate essence between this world and another.

When compared to Plato’s and Socrates’s good which I will soon show is conditionally defined by a dependency on dialectical thinking wedded to a higher  rationality; Confucius’s Ren is more fluid only dependent on the context of the agent and their capacity to intuitively behave in line with what is “a” good and not “the” good; and so being an exemplary individual a Junzi. This is made obvious if we read the collection of this Chinese philosopher’s words, “A person of Ren, wishing to establish his own character, also establishes the character of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, also helps others to be prominent. To be able to judge others by what is near to ourselves may be called the method of realizing ren.”(Confucius, The Analects, Book VI) This demonstrates directly the social implications of this Chinese essence that it is social and therefore both subjected and objected to change. This is why it is an accurate comparison of Ren to essence as being more plural rather than singular.

 This comment is divisive and the Junzi differs from the philosopher king in other ways. Confucius himself was not as Aristocratic as Plato and throughout his life did experience some setbacks in his attempts to bring about social change, yet remained positive towards the capacity of a ruler coming from any background; Plato was not so forgiving after his failures in implementing his political ideas and so as I will soon explain was forcefully against democracy; but, what about an ideology like capitalism? Referencing the well known study by German Max Weber, Thomas T. Lennerfors’s paper references Weber’s opinion that Confucianism can not be seen as an origin for Capitalism in the same way that Protestantism and Calvanism could be because the former lacks the transcendental and religious qualities of the later. The reason Lennerfors makes reference to Weber is because he wants to show how Western criticisms of Asian belief as uniformly supportive of capitalism are prematurely made. Take this quote, it shows that Plato is under equal scrutiny in current Asian discussions.

“Constant references were made to Plato’s warning that a democracy can indeed be a path to societal corruption. In opposition to liberal democratic values of alleged rugged individualism and one person-one-vote, the speakers …were inspired by Confucian ideas of harmony and meritocracy to promote the creation of an alternative society.”(Lennerfors, 2015)

Although a brilliant defense of Asian belief’s transformation under contemporary capitalism; overall this study moves the king and the gentleman closer together, and this is problematic for the argument of this paper. So, let us turn to the importance of ritual for Confucians. Specifically, Confucius would maintain and defend the notion that the people already have the ability to self-govern. In the Confucian literature it is ritual li that is the principle that organizes or orders; and how does it do this? It does so by enforcing rite behaviour through every member of a communities capacity to understand and to have already learned the inherited and well versed ways of behaving. Ritual Piety can be seen even in the process of naming when Confucius suggests, “when the name is not correct, then the words are not smooth; if the words are not smooth, then things will not be done”(Confucius, Legge, 1971). Far more than just a correct formal way of speaking li is directly connected to Ren, a uniquely pragmatic ethical structure that has this authentic and realistic character that comes into view in one answer Confucius gives to Lin Fang.

‘The master replied: “what an important question! In observing ritual propriety, it is better to be modest than extravagant; in mourning, it is better to express real grief than to worry over formal details.”(Confucius, The Analects, Book III) This reply brings us to ‘filial piety’ xiao (孝) a reverence and respect for the family. The idea that the Junzi is more realistic due to a more liberal appreciation of form is the distinguishing factor in the exemplary person and nowhere is this more evident and prominent than in filial piety. The family then is the one constant, humans even if they are orphaned or become hermit like never fully leave a family, and it is remarkable that rather than a religious reverence for Confucianism the Chinese venerate this way of thinking because of its longevity, and because of its aesthetic qualities. Confucianism was adopted because its a tradition of teaching and learning that is present in the family. Where every single human being takes its first steps, listens to sounds, sings songs, crys, laughs, dances, and encounters Ren.

This aesthetic quality of Confucianism does not negate the idea that individual expression is not important both the Greek and the Chinese adored music and in many ways the Junzi would have also had its own freedom toward idealization. Supporting  individuals being able to express themselves is found when Confucius invites his students to share their dreams. Dian or Ceng Xi literally dreams of happiness in returning home singing. Here music and an appreciation of string and air instruments unite the ancient world and the rulers that found themselves in power. But the power of the organic family supports a belief in a plurality of human relations that extends from within the very first and most simple of social structures: in the words of the Confucian scholar Ames we see the power of filial piety (孝), xiào.

“We might say that Confucianism is nothing more than a sustained attempt to ‘to family’ the lived human experience. For Confucianism, it is through discursive living in a communicating family and community that we are able to enchant the ordinary, to ritualize the routine, to invigorate the familiar, to inspire the customary habits of life, and ultimately, to commune spiritually, in the common and the everyday.”(Ames, 2011)

2.2 Justice, the Good, and Dialectic  

‘Justice’ (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosúnē) is Plato’s concept of human mind and it is to do with the idea of the sovereignty of reason; that the soul is affected by bodily appetites. For Plato the number three is important he splits our individual and collective being into three parts: appetite, spirit, and reason. In the Republic these correspond to the class system of this city those with appetite are the workers artisans and craftspeople, spirited individuals have the courage to serve in the military, and those under the influence of reason are to be governors, gaurdians, and philosopher kings. According to Plato when the human soul is able to act with reason it attains a greater level of virtue. Thus presenting Justice dikaiosúnē as the human mind and the process it goes through towards that which is good. The capacity to be self determining under the power of rationality and its access to the goodness of truth.  

Leading to the ‘the idea of the good’ (ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα, i toú agathoú idéa) comes before Justice in the possible schematics of Plato’s thought. It is the most important because it gives rise to the contemporary use of the adjective Platonic. That is also called Plato’s ‘theory of forms’ the belief that things exist because behind the appearance or representation of them resides a truer mathematically precise formal basis for reality. Things as they appear to exist only exist in the extent that they participate in the formal version of themselves. Something can be said to be beautiful because it participates in beauty itself. We see Socrates discussing the Good in the Symposium describing its affinity and connection to love and eternity.

If one analyses the language of the quotations below this paper’s criticism of Plato should be becoming clearer. Although the idea of the Good is a powerful driving force throughout Western culture it suffers from a singular belief in truth being one. The Good being representative of this monolithic element of Platonism can not escape its placement and association with one’s own ownership and this is what stands in contrast to the Junzi who would not see truth so formally. In defence of Plato and his theory of the forms and the Good being the best of these forms; it should be noted that for Plato his theory works only to the extent that individuals and thinkers are able to participate in such forms. The Junzi, in my interpretation is closer to Pythagoras in that mathematical entities are identical to the objects they represent.

The philosopher king is different in being preconditioned to appreciate the truth of something in an unchanging structure related to thought and thought alone . Unfortunately, this is potentially corrupt-able, and dailectic fails rather than resolving opposing views through rational debate. If the king focused too much on what is Good how does the Philosopher King safeguard against such a negative possibility as his own thinking becoming overtly possessive and thus distorting his reasoning? Can we really fully trust that people do not fall in love with that which is bad as it is strongly argued in the Symposium below?         

‘ “But suppose”, she said, “someone changed the question, using the word

‘good’ instead of ‘beautiful’, and asked: ‘Now then, Socrates, the lover of good things has a desire – what is it that he desires?’

“That they become his own,” I said.

“I don’t think that each of us is attached to his own characteristics, unless you’re

Going to describe the good as ‘his own’ and as ‘what belongs to him’ and the bad as ‘what does not belong to him’. The point is that the only object of people’s

Love is the good – don’t you agree?”(Plato, The Symposium, 1999)

Discussing the ‘Dialectic’ (διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ) we can start by detailing how this is also split into three: geometrical, the mythical, and the pedagogical. The first is found in the form of a divided line, the mythical is expressed in the famous form of a similie of a cave, and the pedagogical being the time based plan for a potential philosopher to follow; this progresses from the necessity of military service and through dialectical training the philosopher is then ready to be of use to her or his state. Remember this is represented by a line from opinion to knowledge.

  1. Conclusion

_________________

  • The forfeit of the Platonic leader?

Unlike the Confucian exemplary individual a philosopher king has no such evidence to refute the claims that have been made against it and so is not a leader that carries a strong legitimacy. Instead, looking back into ancient history it remains a vague and lofty character both removed from its citizens and also if Plato’s texts are to be believed: this philosopher leader can be trusted to assess and hold such authority that they have the capacity to accurately determine what function a citizen may be best suited for. Thus removing citizens from their capacity to grow and choose for themselves? Supporters of this king might cite the vast experience this breed of philosopher may have already acquired that is before they completed twenty years of training in dialectics (rational and virtuous thought), but this just plays into a selectivity that is not organic but possessive and aggressive.

The Philosopher King and the Junzi have many similarities yet the differences are hard to ignore. Even though they both share an appreciation of the harmony that music represents the Greek leader is more war like and this is understandable if we look at the historical context of this King’s ancient time. Socrates and Plato lived in the heyday of Athens led by the general Pericles; and it is certain that Socrates and Plato would have gone through military service. This selectivity is precisely why the Philosopher King can not be trusted to be a just and balanced leader. I have shown how this is deeply rooted in ancient Greek Idealism found in the Republic where at childhood the “philosopher king” starts to be selected by some divisive criteria and the separated from their families; a structure that remains an abstract necessity. One that is far less supportive and indeed is not a cause of responsible leadership based upon an immediate and relative discussions found within those closest to us.

  • The Junzi a more real and relative leader?

One of the main arguments against the Junzi that is left to put to the reader is that this ‘familial piety’ that stands in favour of the Confucian leader is also shared with the philosopher king; because we understand that res Republica has supposedly more than one philosopher king then one can say that they would also possess this piety. This quality of being a member of a family however where is the evidence? If this were true then Plato’s great discourse would feature more than just a description of what qualifies a person to be a Platonic leader and the manner in which they govern. If this king of thought has a family Platonist’s will argue that this lack of family in the ideal republic is down to two things: 1) The philosopher king seeks the truth of the family; the form of the family that would be called humanity.

In this case and at this time I do not see how one can take this as sufficient enough reason to make the claim that the platonic king possesses ‘familial piety’. 2) Secondly, returning to the beliefs of these beings their similarities are not so similar. Both believe in a transcendental power bestowed on the ruler. But, the difference is found if you look at Plato’s theology he believes in a creator god. Confucius portrays his leader as developing an awareness of both the bad and the good including how easy it is to fall into corruption. The Junzi exemplifies this because it is not just a leader. In the Chinese state of Confucius’s time the Junzi attained its position in society due to the leader’s capacity to achieve not only harmony but to deal with a chaotic and corrupt boss. Confucius urged his people towards an awareness of their own behaviour and in what way the state is existing. If the leader is not leading the population to a greater state of well-being then the Confucian would encourage his countryman to actively revolt through civil disobedience instead of violent outbursts.

Such a capacity to naturally deal with oscillations between the positive and the negative, and the one constant (change) is honed and harnessed in the organic social forces of the family. A form that is diverse as the many possible ways of living humans enact. Throughout the Analects we have seen many examples of Confucian ideals merge together as they emerged from the hardships these political thinkers experienced in a violent period of the country’s history. Current Confucianism suffers when viewed from the Western perspective of being nationalistic, but the opposite is closer to the truth. The Confusian Junzi is a better ruler because its version of dialectic is more familiar to resolving conflict between people. I hope this paper makes this clearer to the reader for implicit within my conclusion is a challenge to Plato’s beautiful legacy: is it possible that Confucius’s Junzi be better equipped to govern because it was born and remained in that imperfect earthly form of the family?

‘when he is accompanied by other persons, somebody is certainly able to be his teacher.

(San ren xing, bi you wo shi yan 三人行,必有我師焉。).’

 

Angle C. Stephen, and Tiwald, Justin, (2017). Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction, (Polity Press, Cambridge, UK).
Confucius. Ames T, Roger. Rosemont JR, Henry. (1998), The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Ballantine Books, New York.
Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary, The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, University of Hawaii Press, Honolul.Hawaii.
ChinaKnowledge, An Encylopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art.    http://www.chinaknowledge.de/Literature/Classics/confucius.html [03/02/2019]
Dorter, Kenneth. (2006) ‘Philosopher Rulers’, in The Transformation of Plato’s Republic, Lexington Books, Oxford.
Hall, L David. Ames, T Roger. (1987), Thinking Through Confucius, State University of New York, Albany, New York.
Ha Poong Kim. (2006) Confucius’s Aesthetic Concept of Noble Man: Beyond Moralism, Asian Philosophy, 16:2
Hird, Derek.(2017), In League With Gentlemen: Junzi Masculinity and the Chinese Nation in Cultural Nationalist Discourses, Asia Pacific Perspectives, Volume 15, no. 1.
Legge, James. (1971), Confucian analects: The great learning, and The doctrine of the mean. Dover Publications. 263–264.
Lennerfors, Taro Thomas. (2015), The Confucian Ethics of the Junzi in Contemporary Light Capitalism, Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies, December.
Plato (2007), ‘Part IV: Guardians & Auxiliaries’ in The Republic, Penguin books, London. 
(360.bc) Symposium, translated by Benjamin Jowett, online. http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html
(1999). The Symposium, Penguin Books, Great Ideas, London.
(2008), Timaeus and Critias, translated by Robin Waterfield, Oxford University Press.

CC

 

                                           

                                             Crappy Coinage . My penny’s worth.

But a week or so ago a group of inspirational citizens of the Steel City in the UK came together to discuss (UBI) Universal Basic Income. I was not present at these meetings and therefore can only imagine their discussion covered almost all of what I am going to write about here. Yet, this discussion, one of many happening simultaneously around the world I find inspirational and so perhaps this writing will only review what has already been mentioned but I hope there will be something added to the existing discourse on money, finance, and what to do with the capitalist order that seeks to apologise on behalf of inequality. I have been thinking through my own relation to the global economy and the ideology seen as dominantly hegemonic.

UBI should have been a reality a very long time ago; who is responsible for it not being implementable is difficult to say but I suspect it is not a person or a particular people: it is rather a period in the species history that started a process of material devaluation and therein value itself became own-able. This period in our history ranges across a large amount of time.[1] Yet, there are some dates that stand out as being a good starting point for thinking through the potential and I would say necessity for a new truly global alteration to the Capitalist system; that is if it is to continue or to be chosen by future cosmopolitans. The first dates are 1764 with the invention of the ‘Spinning Jenny’ the first industrial textile mill came into being in England. If you think about it this machine and that of its ilk the printing press became automated within the industrial revolution and one sees a correlation between the ease for printing paper and the unsociable and often unfathomable inequality that comes with it. Inherited wealth and business dynasties have cut this world up into ownership; there would be nothing wrong with profit if it could be distributed equally and evenly?

Other dates that are symptomatic of the current urgency of this ongoing discussion include: One of the fathers of the idea of ‘Political Economy’ William Petty was concerned that money be equal to itself which sits well with Karl Marx’s articulation that Gold and Silver where natural choices for currency because of this quality of appearing equal to what it is and this is seemingly embodied in these metals as they resist decay by oxidation. In 1964 the Bank of England was founded and four years later half of the United Kingdoms’s capital was paper. A Scottish financier John Law created a note issuing bank in 1716 to help in financing the then bankrupt French state. [2] A constant throughout these examples is the presence of war and its need for funding. It appears that although the change from metal to paper allowed a greater distribution of value but fails to secure equality; it is unclear if this change was ever made in the right spirit?

‘‘True’ and ‘false’ belong among those determinate notions which are held to be inert and wholly separate essences, one here and one there, each standing fixed and isolated from the other, with which it has nothing in common. Against this view it must be maintained that truth is not a minted coin that can be given and pocketed ready-made.”[3]

Professor Esther Leslie reminds us that this movement towards illusion has a direct connection to banknotes in the German language’s word Schein. The quote from Hegel gives us hope, if only a small hope, that truth is separate from Capital and so is a good point from which to invite more contemporary thoughts on money and income. The most important being a paper titled Bitcoin authored by a fictitious person whose nom de plume is Satoshi Nakamoto.[4] This paper is influential because it is considered to be the first attempt at providing a systematic proof that digital currency could make the economy more equal and such a change is more than possible and we are more than capable of implementing.

There have been many respondents to Nakamto-san but I came across his name in a recent article about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) by a Liam Kelly. [5] One of the participants a character called Quinn does not like Hegel; referring to him as a Brain cancer. What is interesting about this recollection is that it is an example of a social phenomena increasingly set to increase: individuals wishing to take a break from the phantasmagoria and into the realms of fantasy.[6] This LARPing rave contains something interesting regarding the notion of cryptocurrency which is used here as a buy in and the currency that enables access to the rave. However the initial positivity surrounding Bitcoin has started to be met with negative press and on the same website of Breakermag we can read, ‘In the short term, though, that’s not what most big players care about—and the major social change blockchain has brought about so far is that a small number of people have become very rich indeed’.[7] Laurie Penny’s article is a sobering read indeed for those that have never been to such events or invested capital in capital. The criticism continues in an article on MIT’s Technological Review shared by Ami Clarke a lecturer at Central Saint Martins in London and director of arts space Banner Repeater.

‘In total, hackers have stolen nearly $2 billion worth of cryptocurrency since the beginning of 2017, mostly from exchanges, and that’s just what has been revealed publicly. These are not just opportunistic lone attackers, either. Sophisticated cybercrime organisations are now doing it too: analytics firm Chainalysis recently said that just two groups, both of which apparently still active, may have stolen a combined $1 billion from exchanges.’[8]

Such a lack of security runs against the claims of the Bitcoin Paper in which the fictitious Nakamoto lays out the issues of founding a peer-to-peer blockchain in which an equilibrium is created by the equality of users. Yet, in the Bitcoin paper Nakamoto struggles with a forecast problem: the dilemma of how to ensure ‘double-spending’ does not happen. The solution that was put forth is the use of a time stamp that anchors the data to a point then affixed to this is a proof of work using a required number of zero bits that show each node the truth of that data. The author, Nakamoto, goes on to show mathematically how via way of a calculation in probability he/they have successfully created the first economic exchange not based upon trust. Yet, as we have discussed there is more than enough evidence to contradict this infamous paper and a lot of them centre around the the inability of mathematics to nullify human greed and inequality. Furthermore, Orcutt’s paper delivers important details regarding cryptocurrency: it’s vulnerability arises from the same source of the human using the currency and although there are ground breaking attempts to use A.I and newer more and more complex math so as to secure the blockchain from corruption; it remains prone to hacking.

Does this not lead us back to Marx and his initial attack on financial ideology. Marx’s ideas regarding the universality of money and the general formula for Kapital continuously contribute to this discussion; as they have since the moment Marx wrote them. Marx uses a symbol symbolism to discuss the dynamic and the circuit capital produced at the onset of modernism. C for Commodity and M for Market are used to show certain relations between the two.[9] But we might appropriate them to clarify the need for universal basic income. Marx describes two forms of relations. ‘C-M-C starts with one commodity and ends with another… Consumption, the satisfaction of wants, in one word, use-value, is its end and aim. The circuit M-C-M, on the contrary, commences with money and ends with money’ presenting us with use value and exchange value. What is Bitcoin’s true aim to bring them together? Or to neutralise the commodity leaving just the market M-M-M?

It would certainly seem like the trouble maker is the commodity with its anthropomorphism, its capacity to draw from human’s an un-weilding power to influence and captivate. But is this commencing with money and ending with money even possible? The basic answer and argument is a yes because it follows from a simple logic that money is a human construct and so therefore under our power? Yet, this is a hasty simplification of a giant contemporary problem. From my perspective it is more than feasible but it requires the ability for all of us and by all I mean every single living being to agree to giving over power to a new Leviathan; a global government that rules over earth’s inhabitants. Such a proposal is hard and nigh impossible to believe but belief and security in the tried and tested are being put under pressure. There are major hurdles to this but we must consider a few possibilities or things that also contribute to our discussion and it is our discussion as it was in the United Kingdom that cash machines and ATMS first came into usage. It was a Barclays machine at the Enfield branch opened on June 27th 1967.

Such a fact gives us impetus to continue our thinking about how to resolve global inequality. For there is an urgency, year and year the human population grows and year by year unjust differences increase. I see no reason why we cant implement a system whereby everyone has welfare because they do not live in poverty as living citizens they are guaranteed a living wage regardless of job and position. Such a thought is not idealism it is a necessary part of a future human reality and it encompasses some very difficult hurdles. To bring about an equality that Block-chain technology promises (remembering that this technology is still in its youth) society’s work patterns and cultures will have to also change. A major barrier is the notion of ownership: how to retain the positive feeling this brings but without the propensity for greed? In the future work the notion of career should be cycle based and so a person rotates different jobs every year. Basically ensuring that a meritocracy and democracy is maintained. Next to this, work becomes optional, you can work for more money but this has a maximum capacity; the ability to horde wealth is stopped.

One major argument against this is that it is in our nature to be selfish and there is some evidence to suggest that altruism arises from selfishness (see George Price equation), yet this ignores other facts that seem to support radical change. For example, mathematical equations provide a truth in relation to nature but this thing we call nature is constantly also subject to revision and so thinking through ideas and forms that have an impact upon the economy is what we need to be doing. I have been fascinated by a simple perspective: if we observe the Price equation, an equation that tracks the growth and retention of a given quality in a population, then we can take the information (selfishness > altruism) and develop methodologies that lead to a greater understanding of this. Perhaps this suggests that over-consumption will lead to more friendly behaviour; the idea being that if my needs are met then the needs of others become more relevant. This is wishful thinking indeed but perhaps could be possible iff technology enables the production and recycling of commodities so they become more public and less private. This does not mean free but it implies that the exchange and use of a given thing are drawn closer together and so mirror wider social change. This is of course also dependent on a democratic use of technology like 3d-printing and intelligent design.

The contrasting idea is one of a luxury increase accessing Markets and un-regulate capitalism so that everyone lives in abundance. This idea does not provide a future as secure and as attainable as it might appear and instead unbridled capitalism makes an abuse of human desire, and our ability to use this force in a healthy way. Some thinkers, such as Frenchmen Gilles Deleuze and Georges Battaile have theorised that this be so and production is explosively unavoidable. In a book by English philosopher Nick Land one has confronted the idea that the storing of information is necessarily one of isolation and explosive. The formula of Bataille’s economy that Land uses describes how expenditure always exceeds acquisition and how this is indifferent and leads to isolation. But, I choose to read this continuously different communication as arising from the isolation and as the only immediate way we can overcome such unhelpful notions. This also includes a highly relevant discussion on the nature of information and whether or not it is entropic or negentropic; whether or not it privileges chaos or order? Physically we have understood that the past appears as ordered and in the future it is opposite but this is perhaps too reductive a perspective on information and indeed moves us towards pushing for a reversal of this polarity; so that information in the future can be re-ordered and resist decay and corruption?

formula

Here we return to Hegel who rightly stated that truth is not minted and does not reside or has never resided in a bank. Instead the development of rationality in our own time leads us naturally to desire a new state. Hegel, though does not contain answers, like every philosopher he generates more problems. Frankly his thoughts on Asia are outdated but his master slave dialectic and infamous ‘work of the negative’ may indeed have more work to do. Taking all this into account then surely we can conclude that when it comes to money and the economy we need to generate an ideology and ethos that sets our global communities and cultures of exchange not continuing on the narrative of mass production/consumption but rather a system by which the total number of living beings are not subjected to brutal losses by the greed of others. In other words if only it was possible to play a non zero sum game? Is there really such thing as perfect information? I sincerely hope so, as I am not proud of my country of birth as a recent report on poverty by the United Nations discovered one of the most historically influential of nations has left a large swathe of its residents in unforgivable material situations. If all else fails we can always resort to being Saboteurs in the original dutch meaning of throwing wooden shoes sabots into the machinery?


[1] I am not going to mention China’s usage of paper money in the 7th century A.D here because I do not have access to the relevant information and therefore can not offer a commentary on the success or failures of this change of currency. Although, it happened so long ago only adding more time to this problematic time.

[2] Esther Leslie. (2005),Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry, Reaktion Books, London. 89-92

[3] Ibid. Hegel, Preface for The Phenomenology of Spirit.

[4] Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System,

[5] Liam Kelly. (03.06.2019), I Larped as a Monero Developer and It Ended in Tears, [www.Breakermag.com] 

[6] The difference being one is innate and subconscious (kleinian) and the other a conscious choice (fantasy).

[7] https://breakermag.com/trapped-at-sea-with-cryptos-nouveau-riche/

[8] Mike Orcutt. (2019), Once hailed as unhackable blockchains are now getting hacked, MIT Technological Review.

[9] Karl Marx. (2008), Capital, Oxford World Classics, OUP.94-95  

 

 

Dubbing with Derrida

 

 

Dubbing With Derrida:

An underview of a Unique and Great French Philosopher

______________________________________

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[Je regrette que ce ne soit pas écrit en Français.]

 

The following is an attempt to provide an overview of one of my favourite philosophers and even with his renowned status as a university professor and the creation of his own way of doing philosophy Jacques Derrida and ‘Deconstructionism’ remain under-appreciated. Admittedly this may be the possibility of an impossibility: we may not be able to appreciate him enough; that is it may be humanely impossible to give Derrida enough appreciation. It is absurd to even raise the question, but why is it important to appreciate the achievements of this man? To answer this is simple. Jacques Derrida belongs to a group of thinkers gathered together under the tag of post-structuralism but for me he remains the most successful thinker at gaining acceptance in the highest level of a major public institution yet undermining its stability and in doing so democratised an industry and business that often excludes paths and practices of thought, reading, writing, and communication that are considered incomplete but still hide a logic just as certain as those that are streamlined into mainstream education as a commodity form.

The following is a humble attempt to be a good reader of Derrida and re-read some of his texts so as to deepen my understanding of the viral meaning his Deconstruction harnesses and hones.

 

Speech and Phenomena” (1973) La Voix et le Phinomene

 

There are interesting perspective on language involving a medieval notion of language; a trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The thoughts of a man named Ibn Khaldûn characterising language as a technical habit related to an art or craft malaka sintfiyya. The theories of language arising from German distinctions such as Frege’s Sinn (sense), and Husserl’s Bedeutung (meaning) lead to a Charles Morris’s idea of another trivium: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics; which is in need of a separate consideration. Then Wittgenstein is chosen of Austin because he sits closer to a continental tradition and how in the Tractatus Wittgenstein runs up against the hegemony of knowledge; the hegemony that me and Derrida constantly complain against because of it’s crippling conditionalities (knowledge produces a reality bound purely by conditions that it alone generates). Phenomenology sits in a certain narrative of thinking that stems all the way back to Plato and then through Descartes and Kant arrived at its father Edmund Husserl. This philosophy then is one which is comfortable striving for the production of knowledge. Against this are different ways of thinking that reveal the truth of understanding. Derrida shows clearly how phenomenology may be read as successful in its aims of suspending the ‘natural attitude’ so as to assist in a truer understanding of our experience of a given phenomena.

‘Husserl will radicalise the necessary privilege of the phoné which is implied by the whole history of metaphysics, and exploit all its resources with the greatest critical refinement. For it is not in the sonorous substance or in the physical voice, in the body of speech in the world, that he will recognise an original affinity with the logos in general, but in the voice phenomenologically taken, speech in its transcendental flesh, in the breath, the intentional animation that transforms the body of the word into flesh, makes of the Korper a Leib, a geistige Leiblichkeit. The phenomenological voice would be this spiritual flesh that continues to speak and be present to itself—to hear itself—in the absence of the world. Of course, what one accords to the voice is accorded to the language of words, a language constituted of unities—which one might have believed irreducible, which cannot be broken down—joining the signified concept to the signifying “phonic complex.” Despite the vigilance of the description, a perhaps naive treatment of the concept of “word” has doubtless left unresolved the tension of the two major motifs in phenomenology: the purity of formalism and the radicality of intuitionism.’(D. 16)

Here we have a lot of things to unpack and offer a small explanation (I apologise to those who are acquainted with both Derrida and Husserl) so as to re-inforce my own small understanding of these European thoughts. I ponder, is it enough to say that the purity of formalism and a radical intuition can be connected and associated with Kant and Plato’s theories of ideas (the distinction between synthetic and analytical judgements are found uniform in our intuition, and ideas are mathematical forms). The spiritual flesh is seen as dependent on the unity of words and this indeed presents a linguistic continuum. Husserl’s theory of language as it is found in the second part of his Logical Investigations states that an ‘“empty thought” needs a sign as an “Intuitive Support”’ and ‘all thought is carried on by way of certain “acts” which occur in a context of expressive discourse’(Husserl, LI, II. 667… in Petr Urban’s The Relationship Between Thought and Language in Husserl’s Philosophy, Czech Institute of Philosophy). But, we also discover Derrida’s point of contention with Husserl when we observe that this German master saw both the sign and meaning as unified however the use of the word sign Zeichen can either be expressive Ausdruck or indicative Anzeichen. This seems like a small difference but from two different perspectives there is much to discuss and take from the position of Husserl ‘there is the possibility of a sign that signifies nothing; that has no meaning Beudeutung. Contrasting with Derrida where there is no sign without the signified. I will have to take a step back from the assumption that I know my everyday usage of language and also suspend judgement on various phenomena. I will read this book properly because one suspects this text along with On the Origins of Geometry to be essential in understanding the wider situation of the birth of Deconstruction and what questions this philosophy was born amongst. This leaves me to share two of the more important statements or benchmarks ever marked into the long history of thinking; and especially thinking about language.

 

  “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, dariiber muss man schweigen” (“What we cannot speak about we must consign to silence”).    

  Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Philosophicus

 

II reste alors a parler, a faire resonner la voix dans les couloirs pour suppliéer l’éclat de la presence” (‘It remains, then, for us to speak, to make our voices resonate throughout the corridors in order to make up for the breakup of presence”)

– Jacques Derrida,

 

 

Of Grammatology (1976) De la grammatologie

 

I am reading from the text translated by the awesome Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak an Indian philosopher of great Great GREAT inspiration. For her never ending belief in education and the necessity of using language to fight for more equality and openness in our systemic structures of education and learning. Let’s begin with one of the great descriptions of Derrida’s philosophy, ‘Deconstruction seems to offer a way

out of the closure of knowledge. By inaugurating the open-ended indefiniteness of textuality—by thus “placing in the abyss” (mettre en abîme), as the French expression would literally have it—it shows us the lure of the abyss as freedom. The fall into the abyss of deconstruction inspires us with as much pleasure as fear. We are intoxicated with the prospect of never hitting bottom.’((Derrida, lxxvii)).

 

“If the nonphonetic moment menaces the history and the life of the spirit as self-presence in the breath, it is because it menaces substantiality, that other metaphysical name of presence and of ousia. First in the form of the substantive. Nonphonetic writing breaks the noun apart. It describes relations and not appellations. The noun and the word, those unities of breath and concept, are effaced within pure writing. In that regard, Leibniz is as disturbing as the Chinese in Europe: “This situation, the analytic notation of representations in hieroglyphic script, which seduced Leibniz to the point of wrongly preferring this script to the alphabetic, rather contradicts the fundamental exigency of language in general, namely the noun. . . . All difference [Abweichung] in analysis would produce another formation of the written substantive.”((Derrida, 27))

 

This re-production is interesting and I wonder how close it is to Delueze’s metaphysical understanding of the necessity of production. Although, like every text authored by Derrida this book is complex and explores many separate writers and thoughts it is useful in a summary to simplify; and so in this spirit I will take my lead from Wikipedia and split this text into two components parts, yet also add a third: the famous ‘Exergue’. The first two parts are comprised of Derrida’s study of the linguistic thoughts of two fellow French giants Ferdinand de Saussure and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Analysing Saussure’s idea of the ‘sign’ stating the claim that written symbols are not inferior to the phonetic sounds and matter of factly the privileging of speech that has been a constant since the beginning of philosophy is a fallacy according to Derrida; as he shows this opposition is an opposition held within language itself and therefore can not be overcome only embraced, only deconstructed.

The analysis of Rosseau’s thoughts on language is interesting. Pursuing a logic of supplementation Derrida analyses a chain of such events in Rosseau’s literary body. This analysis of the chain of supplementations has a psychoanalytic flavour beginning with the absence of a mother and moving through a presence and absence and then the priority of an absent presence written by Rosseau. One which is deeply haunting not just in how Derrida describes it but also in what interpretive difficulties it traces and marks for us today; and indeed the process is one which a person may readily identify with.

 

‘In his eyes it will remain the model of vice and perversion. Affecting oneself by another presence, one corrupts oneself [makes oneself other] by oneself [on s’altère soi-même]. Rousseau neither wishes to think nor can think that this alteration does not simply happen to the self, that it is the self’s very origin. He must consider it a contingent evil coming from without to affect the integrity of the subject. But he cannot give up what immediately restores to him the other desired presence; no more than one can give up language. This is why, in this respect as well, as he says in the Dialogues [Pléiade, vol. 1] , “to the end of his life he will remain an aged child.”(154)

 

As I am writing I am also reading the pdf copy of this text and it is not a preference the presence of an abundance of digital texts may indeed be turning me into an aged child. I would much prefer the actual book yet Rosseau is shown to be one of those that privilege speech. Remember Derrida supposedly does not mean to critique these thinkers and so I think he has more than a little respect and admiration for Rosseau; and I follow suite, Rosseau’s source for his study on language, a Duclos, provides a startling account of the liberty and therein the collective properties of “spoken” language and the political attacks that take place against language by way of alterations and shortenings. Duclos or Rosseau state, ‘The language is the property of the people. Each derives its unity from the other. For if language has a body and a system, they inhere in the people assembled and “bodily” united: “It is a people in a body that makes a language…. A people is thus the absolute master of the spoken language, and it is an empire they possess unawares.’(170) But, what of the written does it remain un-mastered, free, and unpossessable?

These difficulties are re-stated by Rosseau in terms of the voice and words pre-forming music, ‘If music awakens in song, if it is initially uttered, vociferated, it is because, like all speech, it is born in passion.That is to say in the transgression of need by desire and the awakening of pity by imagination.’(196) Pity interests me here; in Eastern culture, in Japan the Buddhists have a unique reading of the noun. Pity is read as mercy: Jihi 慈悲 has the radicals for happiness and sadness residing above the kanji for mind/spirit/heart. This Japanese noun would be well suited to Derrida’s method of working through the inner logic and contradictions of textual reality. What Japanese texts would enable a working through these signs of pity and mercy?

It is very clear, that many more readings of this book will have to be done for me to fully understand Derrida’s reading of Rosseau’s supplement and interval and this distinctly French exploration of language. Rosseau’s text are shown to contain much interesting reasoning on the state of linguistic change in his day and a discussion of a necessary relation of the child to the sign by way of non-relation; the sign is but it isn’t because unlike adults children do not immediately have a self relation from which to relate to a given meaningful phenomena such as a sign. Before I part ways with this book let’s look at this famous Exergue. Our looking at this description of ‘logocentrism’ benefits from the assistance of Gabriel Rezende’s work on this section of the Book. Rezende nicely describes this centrism and does so in an ambitious project of writing that emphasises the political aspect of Derrida’s work. Correctly stating the three problems that Derrida is dealing with: 1) our thoughts on writing are geared towards an ahistorical concept of phonetic writing, 2) Metaphysics is always bound to a logos, and 3)because of the later it can be stated that humans are nothing more than a teleology of sciences.

Rezende expresses why this part of Derrida’s book is so important and perhaps summarises why Derrida remains widely loved and deeply relevant to today and the future yet to come. It is Derrida’s respectful readings of the three big German H’s (Husserl, Hegel, and Heidegger) that culminates in the very real idea that a cultural teleology is present in the works of these major philosophers and results in logocentrism or the voice that speaks closest to the truth. In Deconstructing this Derrida helps us understand an absent cultural teleology one in which hidden truths are made manifest by the very grammars of writing.

 

Writing and Difference,(1978) L’écriture et la différence

 

A preface is a beautiful thing and in this book it is a translator’s. I am always taken a back at how a written object of respect and repute often comes with an introductory mask one that I often find just as rewarding. This preface does not disappoint I encounter: Epekeina tes ousias the Platonic term for the beyond of being, the shared interest in the difference between Sinn/sense and the senses; between Sein/être and Seindes/étant; the “ontological double genitive,” i.e., the necessary fluctuation of the subjective and objective cases in order to speak of Being, which always means the Being of beings and the beings of Being. Nietzsche gifts us voluntarism (the doctrine of the will) passed down to us from Latin voluntas our volition and funnelled through French vouloir implying even more of a wanting; and Edmund Hussserl’s distinction/opposition between hylé and morphé (matter and form). All of this and more is contained in Alan Bass’s short introduction.

 

Derrida begins his work on a note of anxiety one that is about language and in language itself. Discussing a kind of somnambulism (sleepwalking) situated between a structuralist ideal and the history of ideas; a schism within a force, ‘Form fascinates when one no longer has the force to understand force from within itself. That is, to create’(Derrida, 1978, 3). Here we find ourselves on the outside if we wish to be a creator? Thus soliciting a solicitation (check the Latin etymology), how writing and difference are intertwined. In Derrida’s intro we learn that there is an Art for Immanuel Kant and a Rousseau that is a hidden thing that does its work in secret, yet we can still understand that our imagination is what initiates such a process. We read of drastic yet true procedures, ‘One must be separated from oneself in order to be reunited with the blind origin of the work in its darkness’(D,7) and again this outside also applies to the purity of the literary morphé.

The pure book naturally turns towards this Eastern edge of this absence which, beyond or within prodigiousness of all wealth, is its first and proper content. The pure book, the book itself, by virtue of what is most irreplaceable within it, must be the book “about nothing” that Flaubert dreamed of-a grey, negative dream, the origin of the total Book that haunted other imaginations.’(D. 9)

Derrida could be giving a description of many of his own books and I can not help with my own personal connections to Asia; also long to return to the Eastern edge. This haunting of other imaginations is important it has a connection and relation to the production of truth and Husserl’s innessential (Unwesen). This we are told is dictated by an essence and happens under the rubric of sedimentation. Then a tussle between Flaubert and Nietzsche comes after Derrida’s own stylish eidetic translation, ‘the things for which we do not have enough forms are already phantoms of energy, “ideas” larger then the plasticity of style’(D.34) relishing in the natural lack of language; how it can never quite incomprehensibly structure and has to remain somewhat other to itself. A discussion on Foucault’s reading of Descartes’s nisi me forte comparem nescio quibus insanis…‘Unless perhaps I were to liken myself to a madman’(Descartes. First Meditation) associates this inoculation performed on behalf of philosophy by Descartes against madness is also a question of the sign. Derrida likens the Cartesian split to the presence of an obvious and then a latent language; intimately embroiled in questions surrounding knowledge as a historical construct and the attribution of meaning inherited from master Foucault.

Derrida’s own special Hegelianism rises when he starts discussing the juxtaposition of the Silent (the mad) and reason (the ordered mad) and how escaping reason is impossible unless you embrace its abstractions and its power to disturb. This Entzweiung, a dissociation that Foucault enacts; apparently ancient Greek logos did not have a contrary in comparison to classical reason (D.64). I am not certain what this implies the time of the ancient Greeks was so long ago yet perhaps this comment is a comparison between the pursuit of an Arche by the pre-socratics and the ideas against contradiction formulated by Aristotle and then developed by the Rationalists. Either way Writing and Difference offers questions that for me question writing over difference; that is the book offers an opportunity an invitation to write about writing. Which Derrida was overtly interested in privileging: the inscription over the act of speaking. The relationship between the younger French master and the older German master is fascinating and a relationship which I will be heavily invested in exploring in the coming years. This relation comes to the foreground when Derrida describes a Violence hidden in the history of Metaphysics. The need to determine one’s being in relation to Being.

Writing then is a very unique thing and deeply mysterious, the power of the pen endures in an age of instability. The power of our writing tools (I am eager to explore the power of the brush) remains because they are essential we need them to cut into reality and engineer new lines and sequences. Before, one finishes this the first brief reading and before this text ends with a commentary on the historical and the economical. One last reference to the great German master Husserl is necessary; Derrida cites some giddy German starting with the word Urtatsache (nonempirical factuality) and then moving onto two of Husserl’s sentences, ‘der intentionale Urgrund für meine Welt’, and ‘die Urtatsache, der ich standhalten muss’. After this, some beautiful reflections of what distinguishes a child or beginner philosophical baby from an authentic lover of wisdom. Derrida writes that the child will when first encountering a ghostly corner with an absence of light haunted by solipsism, relativism, and psychologism be naturally daunted; but we are told that, ‘The true philosopher will prefer, instead of fleeing from these ghosts, to illuminate the dark corner. Derrida, don’t pretend that you weren’t an infantile thinker once upon a Parisian dawn.   

‘This vigilance is a violence chosen as the least violence by a philosophy which takes history, that is, finitude, seriously; a philosophy aware of itself as historical in each of its aspects (in a sense which tolerates neither finite totality, nor positive infinity), and aware of itself, as Levinas says in another sense, as economy. But again, an economy which in being history, can be at home neither in the finite totality which Levinas calls the Same nor in the positive presence of the Infinite.’(D.146)

 

[There are so many books written by Derrida that are worth reviewing and so I will post a ‘Dubbing with Derrida: Part II’ at some point – Merci pour la lecture, mais j’ai maintenant besoin de revenir à l’étude japonaise]

Inorganic Animations

Inorganic Animations:

A Review of Spyros Papapetros’ ‘On the Animation of the Inorganic: Art, Architecture, and the Extension of Life’(University of Chicago Press: Chicago & London, 2012).

 

_____

 

Paul Harrison (2019).

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To what extent do humans have agency in the worlds they inhabit? What can we consider as animation? How far does life extend? These three questions are but an initial triangle shaped sample of the many questions nestled within the pages of Papapetros’ book. A book that encompasses a vast range of important aesthetic and historical interventions and explorations. Drawing on the work of some influential European art historians such as Aby Warburg, Wilhelm Worringer, Otto lehman, and Ernst Haeckel this book is one of a handful of critical studies of the fluid movements that have been considered as possible explanations for the movement that resides in matter we long considered to be dead. Such is that ingrained assumption inherited from ancient cultures that things that are visibly in motion are alive and that which is opposite isn’t. How then does this text undermine and usurp this assumption?

By taking these mostly conservative German sources and drawing a line from Warburg’s dissertation ‘Sandro Botticellis “Geburt der Venus” und ‘Frühling,’(1893) with its aims of exploring the animated status of the fabrics and clothing decorating the bodies of art on to Worringer’s Abstraction and Empathy (1919) putting forth how this historian saw an inorganic framework of the swirling motifs of the animal ornamentation of the Nordic and Celtic forms. Lehman, who was a crystallographer, coined the term ‘flüssige or fliessende Kristalle’ (liquid or flowing crystals) measuring the changes in expansion under heat and cold temperature. Finally, Haeckel also adds to this liquid crystalline section of the book, but he demands we consider the homophagy involved in the creation and merging of crystals: clearly pointing to, ‘how immobility can become pregnant with a new form of life’. This nod to cannibalism makes me think of how languages swallow other languages; and how some languages manage to resist such a process. German is encountered on every other page of the book because of its unique place in aesthetic thinking.

It is certainly true that next to this gratitude we should have for the book’s capacity to teach and remind the reader of the beauty of the German language; there is another unarguably special quality this book contains. Everyone understands that books are better when they have pictures in them and in this case you shall not be left disappointed. One example of such a visual delight comes from a cartoon in a political magazine called Simplicissimus (1919) the image is of an aggressive German expression of cubes attacking man; the German reads, ‘Die Kurve, die Grundform des Kapitalismus, ist überwunden. Die neue Beist bricht an. Dröhnend marschiert der kubus durch das Universum’ (“The curve, the primary form of capitalism, is overcome. The new day dawns. Threateningly, the cubes march through the universe.”). Other examples of visual events that are striking include a slide of a book, James Furgusson’s Tree and Serpent Worship (1868); on Asian culture and belief that supports a reverence for snakes and their mechanical cold blooded motion.

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Next to this Ouroboros reminder we find a delightful reference to a French love of liquor found in the very first advertisements for the tire manufacture Michelin. One poster is titled with the Latin Nunc est Bibendum (“Now let us drink!”) we learn these posters carry a force from the painter Fernand Léger that moved from the ancient pneuma (soul/spirit) and towards a French pneumatique invested in the production of rubber tires; objects that remain just like the beings who invented them something capable of inhaling and exhaling air. Prior to this automotive turn there is the matter of how artists and philosophers such as Picasso and Emile Durkheim wrestled with that powerful form of nature the forest. But, as we soon find out this place of wonder is also a place of horror and so reflects the book’s line of inquiry as it shivers down its spine. Penultimately culminating in perhaps the most iconic transformation or animation in the history of Western art; the flight of Daphne from Apollo. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan thought of Daphne as an example of an architectural limit, a plane of identification that is beyond our reach, and so completes this texts invitation to reflect on the inorganic and its maddeningly marvellous movements.    

Such illustrations allow a route into the aim of this book. By highlighting the human’s struggle against reality Papapetros also simultaneously highlights how the struggle itself lends form to an inhuman energy: an animation. One that is in need of special attention and although this book is nearly eight years old it has lost non of its power to enrich the minds of its readers.

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Paul Harrison is a graduate of Sheffield Hallam University and KU Lueven University studying Art and Philosophy respectively. His work has always centred around understanding animation but is increasingly becoming interested in language. In the future there are plans to combine these things.

 

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I am sorry blog, I have been away for too long, but here is a post about some translations from Japanese into English. I am sharing it for other Japanese learners and for anyone with an interest in Buddhism and Kanji.

First up we have some letters I am sending to old students who I miss a great deal. I hope to see them all soon they where such nice people and I was lucky, I will always be lucky to have met them. The above Japanese translates as,’ Maki, Please give this to everyone. On the other side of this letter there is interesting English poetry. I am looking forward to the next time I am in Japan. Let us stay in touch. Paul’

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The second is a map that my friend Yutaka wrote me… it describes a place of nature, a place near Tokyo which has a lot tress; a kind of forest. Yutaka is a fellow philosopher and I want to talk about co-authoring some texts with him in the future.

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Thirdly, there is this bookmark, I took it from a flyer for an exhibition on Ink Painting and I love Sumie and Ukiyoe (Ink painting and Wood Block painting) I could spend all day every day looking at these Japanese art forms. 水墨の風, このブークマークは東京駅近くに出光美術館で展覧会からですね。

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I saved the best to last, this year I will sit my first JLPT exam and then each year after I will sit another. My enthusiasm for this Asian language comes from a teacher I had a Yoko amongst other Yokos. Yoko is a translator of Taiwanese Buddhist texts for one of the biggest Buddhist temples in the world. This translation below is from a recently published book Learning the Spirit/Mind of Zen. Like all authentic Buddhist literature its beauty, power, and truth are constants.

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Yoko 001

The Translation into English Reads:

“Mutually helping each other.

A place where this happens becomes heaven.

Respecting the neighborhood together.

A place where this happens becomes a pure land.

Heaven is ones home.

The Pure Land is ones spirit”

Yoko 002.jpg

Remove the weeds of the mind. And allow the seeds of merit to grow.

[…]

Thank you for reading.  I will post a much larger and more extensive Japanese translation soon.

 

 

 

Logicの復習

logic, exercises
1.モーダス・ポーネンズ

一番… もし、大声と話したら皆さんがその声を聞こえます。/ 私は大声と話します。/ 皆さんが聞こえます。

2.モーダス・トレンズ
二番…もし、野球のゲームをやるので勝ちます。/. 勝ちませんから。/ 野球のゲームをやりません。

3. 加減的三段階論法 (かげんてきさんだんろんぽう)
三番…もし、お天気がいいので嬉しいです。/
もし、嬉しいですからパティーをしま     す。/  もし、お天気がいいのでパティーをします。

4. 宣言的三段階論法 (せんげんてきさんだんろんぽう)
四番…  高さか安さ / 高くないので / 安いです。

5. 建設的な窮地 (けんせつてきなきゅうち)
五番…  (もし、グダグダので寝ります。)と(もし、ぴんぴん(元気)ので起きます。) / グダグダか元気 /  寝るか起きる。

6. 同化 (どうか)
六番…もし、惨めなことは友達と時間を過ごしています。/ もし惨めなことは惨めなことは/ 惨めな事と友達を過ごしています。

7. 単純化 (たんじゅんか)
七番…赤と緑 / 赤です。

8. 接続詞 (せつぞくし) 
八番…青 / 青と黄色いです。

9. 足し算(たしざん) / 加法 (かぼう)
九番…石 / 石か木

10. ディーモーゲンズ定理(ていり)
十番… 〜(愛と嫌う) <> (〜愛か〜嫌う)

11.  関連付け (かんれんづけ)
十一番…  (買うと売る) <> (売ると買う)

12. 結合し (けつごうし)
十二番…  (歩きと(走ると泳ぐ))<>((歩くと走る)と泳ぐ)

13. 配布(ハイフ)/分布 ( ブンプ) 
十三番… (言うと(話すか喋る))<>((言うと話す)か(言うと喋る))

14. 否定の否定(ひていのひてい)
十四番…無 <> 〜〜無

15. 転位(てんい(する))
十五番…(笑うー>微笑) <> (〜微笑ー>〜笑う)

16. 含意 (がんい(する)) / 内含(ないがん(する))
十六番…(夏ー>冬)<>(〜夏か冬)

17. 等価演算(とうかえんざん)

十七番…(秋<->春) <-> (秋->春)と(春->秋)か(秋と春)か(春と秋)

18. エクスポーテーション
十八番… [(飛ぶと乗る)->座る] <-> [飛ぶ-> (乗る->座る)]

19.同語反復 (どうごはんぷく)
十九番…居る<-> (居るか居る)

[This writing is a review of Logic. Recently, the content of the former university I want to remember in the far and near future so I can use. Everyone on the internet, maybe this post is useful I think. Of course, if you have an opinion that logic is interesting. この文章たちは論理の復習します。最近、前の大学の事は覚えたいですから未来と将来また使えますね。インターネットの皆さんは多分このプォストを便利と思います。勿論、もし倫理を面白さの意見だたらねー]

Papers From My Peer’s

Philosophy @Leuven in Belgium; & a Necro-psychoanalyst

The following is a quick and too speedy review of the writings of some of the wonderful individuals I studied with in Leuven. Each person’s paper’s topic will be briefly explored; its ideas summarized and elaborated on so as to share and place this interestingly informed information into the streams of human energy traversing the internet. I hope they travel far…and feed the minds of others…

[I have linked to the original essays where possible otherwise if you wish to speak to the authors then the link goes to their Facebook profile’s]

 

#Ross Williams, (‘A Certain Kind of Sadness’)

A comparison of the thought of Arthur Schopenhaur and Eckhart Tolle. Starting by showing how a scholar called Warburton suggests this poodle lovers pessimism as not absolute only partial. According to Schopenhaur happiness in an unstable world is inconceivable when William’s quotes Schopenhaur’s Buddhist dependency this makes me smile.

 

‘“It must be pleasure to me to see my doctrine in such close agreement with a religion that most of men on earth hold as their own, for this numbers far more followers than any other”

(Schopenhauer 1844, 169).

Schopenhaur is interesting because his fondness for Buddhism is a fondness for the oldest kind of Buddhism; the belief system that arose from within the womb of the Indian Brahman. Then, Tolle is referenced referring to how, ‘the dream of a symbolic world allows our consciousness to interpret or interact with the world’(Tolle, 1997, 128). This sounds like Tolle is an exponent, a supporter of the idea that our reality is holographic; After this the paper describes dangerous desire, wish fulfillment being a delusion, and then similarities between the two thinkers. The evidence that Schopenhaur’s pessimism is not absolute is taken from the writer Fernandez who describes it as conditional. Which is where the paper leaves us: as a part of a whole. Choosing to forgo the ‘will to life’ in favour of liberation through our very material suffering.

Arthur-Schopenhauer

 

#Marlieke Bender (‘The Object “is” the Other’)

This writing explores the performance ‘Rhythm 0’ by Marina Abromovich and what it has to tell us about freedom, human nature and abstraction, violence, and their relations to Emmanuel Levinas and Jean P. Satre. I had heard of Abromovich before from a brilliant documentary film made for her retrospective at MOMA, in NYC, and I had understood that this was a very famous performance but I had no idea what it precisely entailed. Reason no.1 to have enjoyed reading this.

The artist was invited by a gallery in Naples Italy to perform “Rhythm 0”. The gallery was Studio Morra in which visitors to the performance where invited to do whatever they want to the naked being of Abromovich; perhaps encouraged by the 72 suggestive objects on the table. One of these objects was a handgun with a bullet. We all like to think that we are calm collected cultured animals, but given a smidgen, a filament of freedom, and we get a little weird.  The last few hours of the performance regressed into violent chaos with one visitor encouraging the artist to use the bullet. Of course (we are not all monsters) a fight with the guilty individual broke out. But, when the performance was over we are told that the moment the artist resumed active agency again and walked towards her audience everyone fled the gallery.

Bender’s interpretation is an interesting one she traces and mines some of the potential philosophical implications of the performance. Referring to Satre’s idea that we are always both subject and object; involving a wholesome process of becoming an object. Exemplified in Satre’s reflections on a waiter in a cafe. Including the pressure of not being someone, but of being an object for others? What is made apparent is the power of a gaze of perception itself. Especially of that of the creator; is this evidence of the artist possessing a gaze apart from others?

Next up is Levinas who suggests that a moment of contact between two beings, between one and the other, is not necessarily a connection between human beings but culminates in an “other”. Marlieke’s choice of thinkers and citations is telling and reveals the greatness of Levinas, ‘speech becomes serious only when we pay attention to the other and take account of him and the strange world he inhabits. It is only by responding to him that I can become aware of the arbitrary views and attitudes where my uncriticised freedom always leads me, and become responsible.’(Levinas…?). Leaving is considering the very nature of responsibility. Who is responsible when those in charge frequently relinquish responsibility?

Abromovich, judging by her words in Marlieke’s essay, does so; saying that her purpose in performing is to create a stage for people’s fears. Maybe her admission is that if we all perform more actively, more intently, with more vitality we may free oneself from our fears? Eventually, our lack of personal completion results in a kind of “involuntary debt”; we are indebted to an otherness that is wholly other to us as active subjects and objects. I enjoy attempting to use art to explore philosophy and visa versa philosophy to explore art; and you can clearly see the possibility of philosophy arising and being authored by art.

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#Mathew Devine (‘Suffering the Eternal Remorse and Melancholia Through the work of Vladimir Jankélévitch’)

 

A masters thesis, reading of Bergson’s Padawan the French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch’s work distinguishing remorse from regret and melancholia and mourning in his phenomenology of psychopathology after Freud. Devine characterises these interestingly as experiences. In many ways Devine’s writing is a commentary on the impossibility of nothingness and how this impossibility is embroiled in processes of regret, remorse, despair, melancholia, and mourning. Questions that lurk at the beginning the Devine’s exploration: when does remorse tell us about the eternal within us? Is remorse really timeless? Devine begins by describing Jankélévitch’s own stance, ‘Consciousness is the moment by which the self splits into two. The “I” (le soi) becoming an object of an “I” (le moi )’, a kind of gap, and a drop of Kantianism, ‘perfect happiness would only be possible if one knew nothing of one’s happiness’. We should all make an effort to contemplate these things.

Moving on Freud’s thinking is referenced when he describes the phenomena of ‘mourning’ and this is used by Devine to situate the reader before he articulates remorse and melancholia. Freud saw how work itself can come to replace the searing pain of loss and mourning. Writing in On Transience describes how the loved and lost object is allowed to rest when work is seen as being successful. Furthermore, the individual suffering from melancholia may suffer more because of its a-temporality. Freud’s characterisation of melancholia as a disturbance of self-esteem is absent in mourning. Devine draws our attention to the harshness of Freud’s ego split and how one part goes after the other, ‘we can not easily judge the degree of correspondence between the two versions of the self.

This is also why remorse can be said to be a feeling and guilt as a state. If I have read the paper correctly than this statement may also be so: for Jankélévitch repentance creates a distance between the wrong doer and the wrong. This in turn creates this necessity to suffer the eternal that we can locate within ourselves, that part of each and every one of us that is indeed eternal. Turning remorse into a virtue is dependent on how true the remorse may be thought of? There are many virtues in this study but one I find particularly interesting is a struggle to locate and anchor suffering as a phenomenon; what is the relation between impersonal or personal suffering. Devine resolves this with the help of a different French philosopher called Levinas and his stripping away the (human) world. Does his ilya (anonymous being) lead to an exposure to infinite eternal existence? Jankélévitch’s answer to this is the same as Achille’s speaking to Odysseus, ‘what good is eternity if it is not for living?’ a very good answer indeed, and it is here that Devine concludes successfully arguing that choosing an existence in finitude over an inexistence in eternity.

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#Jens Van Steerteghem

Next up we have the Flemish physics fiend. Studying with Jens and his (“Jensing” a kind of Lensing; a way of seeing”) is awesome and very rewarding always on hand to discuss any and all topics. He is originally trained in Biology and is currently engaged in the critical creation of the European Union’s scientific policy making. His essay I found very rich “Escaping Technology a Dissidents Perspective” is an essay written on the infamous American Unabomber; and his manifesto “Industrial Society and its Future” (1996). Van Steerteghem begins with a good question; as every essay should do: Why did the serial bomber want to escape technology and is such an escape even possible?

Unabomber believed in a power process only satisfied by living as primitive man. Under technological society this process was disturbed according to this terrorist manifesto writer. Steerteghem rightfully questions this and initially makes a connection to thinking of Heidegger. But, a writer called Bijker is also cited and it is here the criticism begins in earnest,  ‘the socio-technological ensemble, where technical success consists in tying together different preexisting artifacts with different preexisting social elements in productive ways.’ (Steerteghem, Ku Leuven, 2018). I think this is a good statement to begin resisting Unabomber in the face of his accelerated technological telos.

To counter act the glum view of the Unabomber’s thesis Steerteghem points us towards network theory and the mathematical structures of advanced connectivity; saying that manipulation of the hubs can lead to control over technology. Then Bruno Latour’s ‘Actor Network Theory’ is discussed. Taking a holistic view of ANT and this culminates in clusters of ‘”Black Boxes” that represent the successful integration and acceptance of new technology and/or a scientific theory. The conclusion of this paper takes Unabomber’s own notion of a ‘power process’ and using it to show how it supports the opposite of anti-technological reality. Technology is in itself a power process and therefore can not be separated from other such processes hastily deemed as natural.

But, this Flemish author has forgot his Marxist potentiality and in the concluding remarks succumbs to a notion of society (“the clusterscape”) that is still an imprisoning one, and overlooks the global revolution’s potentially technological heart.

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# Albin Van Latum

Albin is a Dutchman and a dynamic thinker. I enjoyed the conversations we all had; with Jens, Anne, Peyton, Marlieke, Marren, Ross, Alirazor, Amin, and others.

Albin wrote his paper on a very interesting subject the antagonism between myth and science. Beginning with the ancient propensity of creation myths having order being a process of moving away from a prior chaos. Latum will argue that rather than the modern understanding of myths as “a miss-representation of truth.”, myth under Latum’s pen will be shown to be the fundamental bridge between humans and an otherwise chaotic reality and how Science’s modernism is itself a myth. After remembering how chaos is first born in Hesiod’s Theogony; we are then introduced to a beautiful ancient myth about chaos originating from ancient China. In the Zhuangzi Chaos (Hundun)  ) is seen as ‘the creative spontaneity that ceases to exist once one meddles with it by attempting to impose order’. So, in this Chinese myth we see Van Latum’s initial thesis clearly: myths help humans order Chaos into meaning. But, not via means of control rather appreciation.

In the discussion on the relation or development from mythos to logos an interesting point is made, ‘whereas both Plato and Aristotle concerned of different levels of mimesis of reality this plurality went through a process of reductio ad unum (an argument that rests on the absurdity of the opposing argument) the result of which is modern realism.’ It is with the reductio that one feels a kinship with this Dutch brother’s writing and thinking; I feel that many people would agree that this modern realism has a major problem in that it occasionally appears as mythless; leaving us a task to really nurture an cultivate the opposite. Such a line of thinking was also followed and developed by Mark Fisher in his Capitalist Realism (2009). Latum also paints a more useful picture of the philosopher of science Karl Popper; in that his ‘falsification theory’ is seen on preserving a mythical science. Instead of the Popper who unsuccessfully attempted to refute the work of Marx and Freud.

This paper really finds its rhythm when numinous Nietzsche is referenced as Latum starts discussing contemporary Chaos … some much needed Socrates bashing ensues… Overall, the claims of science to rule over the entirety of nature are shown to be unhelpful myths. These claims came into being as the Christian paradigm, or scientific dominance over western thinking began to loose its huge influence. That is why we are still learning from Nietzsche, ‘Truths are illusions about which it has been forgotten that they are illusions, warn-out metaphors without sensory impact’, and we readers are forced to admire this papers conclusions, ‘Chosmos is chaos, of interpretation on the back of a selective process’. Eventually we are left with one certainty if we embrace the myth making capacity of chaos we can see our openness to the pure potential of artistic creation.

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# Juste Keturakyte (The Critique of Buddhism and Christianity in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Philosophy)

In an ambitious dance with Nietzsche Keturakyte explores a supposed superiority of Buddhism over its Western counterpart Christianity. Nietzsche’s opinion is well expressed and articulated; as is his appreciation of Buddhism. Reading this text we encounter Buddhist Dukkha (suffering). Then its cause the craving after transient things Trishna; and also a path to the elimination of this suffering ashtanya manga. Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics is characterised as being one of revenge. That Christian Moralities explained as the one life is littered and scarred by revenge. That the mere essence of metaphysics is the denial of and revenge over becoming and time as the expression of decadent and declining life. So, Nietzsche’s admiration for Buddhism is written to be centred around its capacity to be truthful to the meaninglessness of human existence however he does not like its self denying aspects seeing them as too passive.

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I find that Keturakyte’s elegant exploration of the Buddhist influence on Nietzsche to be accurate and refreshingly honest, and very well positioned for  future development. Especially the idea of ‘Euro-Buddhism’ but to offer but a small critical note. I think Nietzsche’s criticism of this passive nihilism of Buddhism is not thoroughly separated from Schopenhaur’s Indian reading and so does not do Chan Buddhism full justice. Keturakyte’s points about the a-temporality of Nietzsche’s ‘Eternal Return’ as transcending both Buddhism and Christianity is not quite attainable. For the reason that in Chan Buddhism especially its passivity is to explicitly do away with distinctions that seek to differentiate. Resulting in an appreciation of how things are: endlessly coming to be and passing away, manifesting and re-manifesting, and all is just inter-being including eternity and its return.

Nietzsche and Buddhism

 

 

# Sam Bunn & Grussgott, an artificial intelligence from the future (Imagining an Institute for eUtopia)

Sam along with this A.I have constructed an impassioned defence of how artistic practice can and ought to be used to build the “good place” in contrast to the non-place we so usually are confronted with. Bunn’s Master’s thesis is very interesting and eclectic, yet ordered in its creative energy. I like the format of the study, and the interplay between A.I and human really creates with the material and topic matter very coherently. Beginning by pairing off Sacral art and Fine art Bunn or Grussgott and showing how exactleeeeeeeeeeeeeee this sacral can be seen as a “twisted tear drop”; half a way. There are seven chapters in Sam’s study and I will list them before drawing out some of the highlights that caught my attention when I first read. The contents include; ART or art?, Stories make Sense making Sense, Grasping Utopia, Eutopia as a Tool, Re-imaging Infastructure, eUtopia Explored and Attempted, and the conclusion.

I am not sure about Art confirming the American Dream this feels like it gives to this particular dream too much. But, the conversation discussing the persistence of filmic ideology (ideology is persistent as film? Or, ideology is a film?) moving through this notion that American cannot separate the idea of liberty from liberalism. From this constitution to Adam Smith’s marketised version; here the A.I reminds the human that America is not just full of capitalists, ‘Remember Jameson (influential Critical Theorist) is American.’

Reading through the next section on storytelling and sense, I am reminded of Walter Benjamin’s texts and how this study is a little bit like a new project from the Arcades? Discussing the potentially vegetative state of humans if they fail to grasp Bertold Brecht’s reality shaping hammer. But, Bunn or Grisbott pick up this hammer with a sub-hypothesis, ‘what if this main residue of watching a film is: lasting images?’ This branch is interesting its difficult to interpret but it could be that film’s deep realism is like a hammering of images; like the way a blacksmith would gradually craft a refined metal. It is also interesting that this involves an element of forgetting and remembering: forgetting to remember is absolutely what I do…

Then an utopia lists many influential authors and Ernst bloch keeps the concept of utopia firmly in the everyday rather than just a literary form. I love Darko Suvins/Surins’s idea of a ‘novum’ and I skip Thomas More’s well cited definition of utopia; a non-place. Then we continue to move through the good places of some films and their lasting images.

On page 59 Gussbotts and its human friend find agreement and I think I have stumbled upon the essence of this text and its true purpose; what it really engenders and supports. The A.I asks, ‘you are talking about popularizing socialist politics in mass consumable story form, aren’t you? The answer is yes; we now need to find our second yes to affirm as indeed the true aim of this paper, the formal desire of this intellectually creative event. I like how part of this discourse throughout this study is its cautious character; it permeates an awareness of the pitfalls of over-stating content and one’s thinking.

This and the idea of “socialist politics in a mass consumable story” is really evident in one of the many artistic projects Bunn completed as part of his time in Linz. The project Reise in die Zuhunft a journeying into the future with today’s children, and art’s radical potentialities are immediately enacted as social reality is seen as uniformly and universally creative in the artistic sense. Such play is then carried on into a ride of sorts; the brilliantly named ‘Far-see-er’; a series of interconnected rooms exhibited together as a ride designed to be ridden, of course, at the Architektur Forum in Linz. Overall, one, everyone should journey through and re-experience this journey that Sam Bunn and the A.I took because this study is refreshingly in its diversity, honesty, and creativity. The Agent Author’s humility is constantly present in this study; a good example is the response to the dilemma that the discussion on eUtopia might be unresolvable and we may be forced to accept the Utopia the negative option.

‘perhaps one should just learn to live with the dust that is stuck to the word utopia and not to confuse people with this ‘eu’. Generally they just think that I make some kind of obscure comment about the European Union.’

I wish this creator and fellow lover of art all the best for his future eUtopian film making.

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# Julie Reshe (Beautiful Monsters: On Destructive Plasticity)          

Julie Reshe is the necropsychoanalyst par excellence and one half of the directorship of a new educational model for the future. Operating within a Post-Lacanian landscape Reshe is constantly expanding on the richness of Freud’s brilliant Venetian verisimilitude. I am not entirely convinced the notion that humans are “living dead” can overcome the negative imagery of the Zombie; yet one thing is more certain Freud’s Thanos remains important as ever for today’s epoch. Below are some thoughts on Reshe’s essay on ‘Destructive Plasticity’.

The essay is written as a critical response to the great French philosopher Catherine Malabou; who years ago introduced me to the idea of epigenetics (how feelings encode meaning and trauma can be distributed across generations biologically via way of the genome). Homing in on the scientific neurobiological conception of synaptic plasticity Reshe wants us to reflect on the negative side; the formalism of synaptic connective via way of destruction; and in attempting to hastily attribute a “cure” to such a destructive plasticity, Reshe reminds us of Foucault’s insight: that, the concepts of illness and health are socially constructed.

Running, both with and against Malabou, Reshe reformulates the notion that the child, can be a little monster, and therefore after encompassing a kind of destructive plasticity or a Lyotardian ‘primordial susceptibility’ – the child that remains throughout life. Yet, this writing really on one level is very comforting considering the biographical and important personal references to real lived experiences. This is then complemented by the text’s desire to critically think through psychoanalysis. Freud’s idea and its Greek influence is referenced that, ‘Psychic traumatization is understood by the analogy of physical traumatization.’ A difference imposed by the foreign body entombed with the local body.

After rightfully questioning the ease at which a disorder may legitimate the presence of an illness. I find Reshe’s conclusion compelling and ripe for much more development. If we are all beautiful monsters then we are all still susceptible, still receptive to these powers that are both organic and inorganic; power that we still marginally understand. Yet if we join Reshe in refelecting on our beautiful little monstrosities then we may increase such a thing.

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