August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
“The philosopher was seated on the lawn. He said: ‘signs form a language, but not the one you think you know’” —Italo Calvino / Invisible Cities
“What is a relation? It is what makes us pass from a given impression or idea to the idea that is not presently given.” —Gilles Deleuze / Pure Immanence / Hume
Aurelio Madrid: …seeing new cities & new faces are of relevance as we’re meeting in this place, this city, a starting of a memory & when I get to writing/transcribing it down it will then be in the past as a memory. …so, Hollman Lozano we finally meet here in Vancouver, British Columbia, your home base. Let’s start off with some basics first, I want to ask you about where we met (we were virtually becoming to what we’re doing here today & we know that with Deleuze there are obvious references to the virtual, since we met in a virtual realm, online). I already know roughly that your interests are with philosophy & political philosophy. You wrote me a DM to say that yes, you’re interested in Deleuze & Guattari. Of course you know that my interests are philosophical with more emphasis on aesthetics, but lately I’ve been moving a little away from aesthetics & more into general philosophy, I recently got through G.W.F. Hegel’s preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit (which I noticed you have on your bookshelves) this was very demanding, but I wanted to read him after I got through some of Plato’s idealism & even Althusser who seems to have had a Hegel problem, as did the rest (most, but not all) of 20th century philosophy, especially the analytic philosophers (Althusser wasn’t an analytic philosopher, rather a continental & continental philosophy had its gripes with Hegel too, with exceptions). So, now that I knew I’d be talking to you I realized that I should pick up Deleuze (& yes, Deleuze is new to me), or Deleuze & Guattari (knowing the difference between the two in 1,000 Plateaus is a tough chore, while I’m not letting that distinction distract me). For the most part I seem to be looking at Gilles Deleuze specifically. You may have noticed that I wrote a post on Deleuze’s reading of Hume, from Deleuze’s book Pure Immanence. This was a good intro because it helped me see Deleuze (& Hume) as more relational, with obvious themes of effectual & causal associations, & most importantly empiricism, even ‘transcendental empiricism’ (which I never would have known about Deleuze before this reading, it’s slightly unexpected & a part of his thinking nonetheless.) Well anyway, I had to start really shaking off all the Hegel influence to read Deleuze because I knew Hegel would get in the way & yes, as we’ve seen, there are important points of Deleuze that clearly break with Hegel & in fact are in direct opposition to the absolute, such as difference, univocity, features of immanence & so on (tough to measure whether difference itself is an absolute & I won’t touch that here). While doing this I still can’t & I openly refuse to throw Hegel in the trash, as he taught me so much about his intricate ways of explaining knowing. He too was of great relevance & not to be discounted as the situation demands. With this said, my attempt has not been to find, or compare, instead it’s been to really get my mind on Deleuze & to simply put Hegel off to side, to be sure, this is an honorific putting aside. I believe that Hegel always deserves more attention & his ideas are sometimes embedded in his stony obscurity. With this we’ll have to acknowledge that Deleuze too isn’t the most accessible of thinkers either. All of them are a huge amount of work to consider, an investment in time & deep philosophical research, always. One has to let go of all this thought of ‘making it easy’ because the difficulty is what will create the satisfaction when one does get to a place where things are moving in less recalcitrance. Actual learning has to face what it doesn’t know to make room for knowledge, thank you Hegel. That’s not say however that philosophy has to be difficult, if & when it is, we must be prepared to face its challenges for what they are, in their context.
This does lead me back to something I wanted to ask you, since we’re both on Twitter. I’ve noticed a lot of people on Twitter are into Deleuze. Do you have anything to say on this phenomenon, do you think there is a particular reason for this? What about Deleuze’s thought brings out this urge for social networking? There are a couple of guys who seem to be exclusively Deleuze (along with strains of Foucault, Nietzsche &c.) Like that Naxos guy (think his name is Adriano, not sure if you follow him), who I’m sure is in Mexico & who sounds like he eats, drinks & sleeps Deleuze. When I started tweeting things on D&G (& Deleuze alone) He lit up for me, suddenly we were talking, I wanted to have him do an online discussion with me, but he said his English wasn’t clear enough where he could do such a thing (for some reason I thought he spoke perfect English & makes me wish I spoke Spanish, just to talk to Naxos about Deleuze. I know, with my name & I don’t speak Spanish, don’t ask) But, that’s what we’re doing here (talking Deleuze), so what’s with all these Deleuzians on Twitter Hollman? …& while your at it why don’t you fill out any of how you happened to turn to Deleuze (along with Guattari)?
Hollman: To a certain extent I think that the obvious answer for the Twitter & D&G connection it that it’s a rhizomatic medium, where the people that are there are connecting at different points. That would be the obvious point, the obvious answer & people talk about this a lot, but I question the possibility of that answer, because I think that especially in the English speaking world, there’s a wave & right now the wave is Deleuze. It used to be Marcuse, it used to Sartre…right now we’re on the Foucault, Deleuze & Guattari wave. The theoreticians of that particular medium & I don’t know if they perceive the medium, or the medium is just expressing who they are. I’m not sure about the how the relationship of how this happens & I’m not sure if their theory has anything to do with the medium. I think that once the wave is settled & something else comes along, perhaps we will be very equipped to answer if in fact the rhizomatic had anything to do with Twitter & social media. So, is D&G an embodiment of that, or is it simply a causality that the two (D&G with Twitter) go along together?
Regarding the question of Hegel, I too am not sure that we can leave Hegel in the background. I think one of the obsessions of Deleuze & also Foucault had to do with Hegel, whether they acknowledged it or not, I don’t have it clear, but I remember a quote of Foucault where he basically said that perhaps he is still within the Hegelian system & that maybe the Hegelian system is so encompassing, that even though you’re trying to get out of it you are still within it & the effort at which you try to get is precisely the point where you remain within it. While I read your questions there are points that you know that are there, but you don’t look at them because it’s not where you’re at. I was looking at the possibilities, the encounters, the differences between Deleuze & Hegel, I didn’t research anything, but I did look to some notes, like I said last night, there are two main streams of understanding as to the relationship between Hegel & Deleuze. Basically one is stream is with Žižek, Catherine Malabou & Judith Butler who argue the Deleuze was not able to get out of the Hegelian dialectic. Then there are people like Massumi, Negri & Hardt who of course claim that Deleuze was absolutely able to get out of the dialectic. There are implications for that with people like Manuel DeLanda who argue that there are two positions, that there are two Deleuzes. One, is the Deleuze prior to D&G, then there is the Deleuze who comes after this union, their understanding. With the question of Hegel, it depends on which of the two we’re looking at, there’s the first Deleuze, the Deleuze of the Logic of Sense & Difference & Repetition, for that Deleuze there is the virtually of becoming, as a sense of event is the passive. Causally starting the effect of actual bodily material. With this Deleuze we see causes & processes. For Deleuze number two, the one of the Anti-Oedipus& another book I’m not remembering right now, with this Deleuze there’s the domain of virtual singularities that is the flux of pure becoming, this becomes productive, causing the individualities of bodies & subjects within concrete & diverse assemblages. Whereas for the first one there is passivity & as for the second there is much more activity. Also with the second we have Negri & Hardt who examine this second Deleuze in their book Empire. So on the other hand, we have people like Žižek who seem to be more interested in the first version of Deleuze, who seem to see more possibilities with radical revolutionary politics in this first domain…
Aurelio: …okay we’re separating out the difference between the early Deleuze & this break is has to do with the Deleuze before Gautarri & after?
Hollman: …for certain people that’s a contentious issue, but I think that DeLanda has explored it well enough to make an interesting case & argument for that. It has to do with the issue of immanence, it has to do with Spinoza, it has to do with how Deleuze grasps Spinoza & it has to do with Spinoza’s Expressionism in Philosophy[Deleuze’s commentary on Spinoza] , it’s basically that play, that game…
Aurelio: …then, moving a little away from Deleuze for a minute, I have taken a look at your Tumblr (blog) & noticed a short except from a Foucault interview about the “Hypomnemata” a sort of ancient book that people kept to manage their thinking lives, a place to write down important thoughts & ideas that wasn’t a diary, more like our idea of contemporary blog, a place to refer to later, a place to lay down & order thoughts that’ll be used later. I know I’m always going back to re-read my blog to review ideas & thoughts I’ve looked at in the past, so definitely it is a record of important intellectual ‘events’, rather than a journaling experience. I’m wondering what you made of this Foucault excerpt? I mention this because we’re in a virtual context when we’re online & this work we’re doing at this moment becomes a kind of hypomnemata for us & for this reason it has an appropriate relevance.
Hollman: Every time that I think about philosophy, I think of a work in progress, I think of not having answers, & I think of having questions. With those questions sometimes you don’t know where you began, you have one question that goes to another question & so on. The way in which I see the hypomnemata …there’s something that Foucault talks about & that is this ‘epimelesthai sautou’ (care of the self). The later Foucault goes back to the Greeks & Romans to try to see & question the practices of reconstituting subjectivity are different form the practices that are in place now. He doesn’t necessarily compare & contrast, but he’s trying to investigate how the subject was constituted back then. It’s curious to see how the issue of having a memory written down of your intellectual travels, it’s a useful dynamic & it’s an open dialogue you have with your other self. That’s one of the beauties I find with blogs, because sometimes you are able, without even looking for it, you are able to find what I’ll call ‘soul-mates’, people that are going through the same process you are & it’s like temporary company, temporary people that travel along with you that help &/or confuse you, but there’s just a beauty to find those people that are at the same point at a particular crossroads. There is an interesting thing about the reconstitution of subjectivity that goes through this process, here we have these two guys who curiously enough are from opposite perspectives, yet both get to more-or-less the same conclusions. I’m talking about Foucault with his reconstitution of subjectivity, let’s remember that Foucault has a strictly materialistic perspective. He’s not interested in getting though…um, transcending & the spiritual domain that pertains to god/s, that’s not really his thing. Then there is this other guy who is writing & is interested in the classics, from a conservative point of view, I’ll dare to say & he’s Pierre Hadot. It’s curious how both of them get to this reconstitution of subjectivity through a process of soul searching & they both go to ancient sources & they both get to the same conclusions. The difference is that Foucault is (as I said) was not at all interested in the spiritual thing that Hadot is really looking into…
Aurelio: …oh, so you have this book, this hypomnemata for Foucault & how this book has to do with subjectivity in the ancient world.
Hollman: …right, yes, there’s a text of Gautarri that was written in 1993 (I think) & it’s titled The Three Ecologies. In the 1930’s we have Gregory Bateson, he was the husband of Margaret Meade & he is a really interesting character. He has one book that is called the Ecology of Mind, so that’s the place where Guattari got the idea for the Three Ecologies, where we have the ecology of the mind, the social ecology & environmental ecology. Therefore, we have the reconstitution of subjectivity on the social, environmental & mental dimension. It’s like the reframing of who the society & the individual wants to be revealed from an active process of choosing who & what you want to be…
Aurelio: …so its self-determined, whereas Foucault was not interested in the self-determination of the individual?
Hollman: …ah, to a certain extent I would challenge that reading. There are people that say the Foucault was not interested in affirming subjectivity, but I will dare to say that he was…
Aurelio: …yes & Bateson clearly is as you’re saying.
Hollman: …yes, Bateson & even more so with Gauttari & sure yes this is present with Bateson.
Aurelio: …& back to Deleuze, you recently also had a thought provoking quote from Deleuze on Kant (Kant, Cours Vincennes). Where Deleuze briefly outlines some background for Kant’s philosophy with Leibniz’s take on analytic judgments over synthetic judgments, this all is to question Kant’s a priori positions that are combined with the categories to form judgments (this questioning of the a priori is present with Deleuze’s reading of Hume too). Well, if I remember correctly this is not the kind of thinking Deleuze was advocating as an empiricist radically after Hume, who didn’t allow for all this talk of all this a priori grounding. I’m really wanting to know how you read this little quote about Kant, Leibniz, judgments, ‘Caesar crossing the Rubicon’ as an analytic judgment &c.? I know that Liebniz was important for Deleuze (I’m thinking of planes of immanence, singularities, monads, folding of philosophical ideas &c.).
Hollman: There is a process that happen with the lessons/lectures of Deleuze regarding Kant, there are some in French & few in English & in Spanish (they are easy to get to). This is an issue that I have not devoted that much time to, if there’s something I have not paid lots of attention to is this Leibnizian concept, how Deleuze’s fold works with him & all that. I’m just not there yet. I’m more interested now with the war machine, I’m more interested in the reconstitution of subjectivity…yes, the war machine is covered from a chapter in a 1,000 Plateaus. I’m afraid I’m not so much a connoisseur of these Leibnizian categories as they relate to Deleuze.
Aurelio: As we circle around understanding Deleuze’s contributions within the work of other’s & his work, we’re always confronting & grappling with all his ‘multiplicities’ of terms. Probably the most significant one for me is Immanence. Now, we know that this is definitely linked to Spinoza with strong overtones of Nietzsche’s ‘eternal return’. Most notably for me, is that Deleuze’s immanence goes against Hegel’s transcendence. Hegel did speak of immanence but not in the same way, his had to do more with spirit (geist: mind/spirit) establishing thought itself as completely not separate from the world we live in, our thought is immanent in everything we encounter, to know ourselves & to start to know the science of philosophical knowledge, propelling towards absolute knowledge. Now, where this might differ from Deleuze could be in that while we are in Hegel’s circumstances, we transcend the conscience world with our thoughts of it substance as subject = thought in the world whereby the substance is transcended by becoming the subject of scrutiny & even though we are readily recognizing differences, we still have to bring it all together in the end to the apogee of the absolute, the absolute becoming so to speak, that was with Hegel. This is all a polarity for Deleuze’s immanence which is yes, connected to difference, but without trying to transcend it & to bring it all together in any way like Hegel did. Differences are just that, differences in relational sense as we learned with his reading of Hume. Deleuze’s difference is radically anti-Hegel as was Deleuzian immanence (which is more Spinozian). With your background on Nietzsche, can you help by explaining the difference between Deleuze’s immanence & Nietzsche’s eternal return? I don’t want to put you on the spot to ask about Hegel. I know this has to do with a couple more of Deleuze’s terms: univocity & of course difference. What’s your input on all this? Nietzsche’s ‘eternal return’ was a circular vision of time, wasn’t it? & didn’t Deleuze oppose looking at time in a circular? Last night I was reading another chapter in Deleuze’s Pure Immanencethat was on Nietzsche. It is in the text that Deleuze speaks of the difference between Nietzsche’s eternal return as more of the same & a return of difference…so, yes, in a way, I already have the answer to this but I’d still be curious to hear your response. Repetition is a good thing, especially with reference to Deleuze.
Hollman: There is a sense where we have terms that are annoying, not so much for what they mean, but more with the baggage that they come with. There are words that are annoying for me like becoming. I remember being a seventeen-year-old & thinking to myself what in the hell could this becoming mean, the process of being & the process itself? I’d be like: how can that be possible? There seems to be a fixation for this interpretation of terms. I will even push to a certain extent the Deleuzian encollage to try to interpret ideas, trying to open perspectives. I’m curious about the extent to which there is a loyalty, a fidelity to certain readings & one of the issues with analytic philosophy (& a little with continental philosophy too) where we have this over-fixation on/with certain terms. I know I’m not answering your question directly, but I’m feeling that there is this fixation with terminology. I’m not necessarily saying that this a bad thing, but it seems to be a brand, a way of doing philosophy. I just had this while casually going through Agamben & it’s the usual perspective of going back to the what D&G talk about with arborial knowledge, going back to the root of the word, or going back to the original meanings & how this spreads…
Aurelio: …yeah, because we have to this arborial as more Hegelian & the rhizomatic as D&G.
Hollman: …sure the arborial as opposed to the rhizomatic. I’m just concerned with the fixation with the actual meaning of terms, since this way is so Hegelian that’s such a background on a Deleuzian gridding. I was going to the Ritournelle(the refrain) that’s about cows, creation, cats, creativity & so on. There is a text, I think I found it linked somewhere on your Tumblr, where Deleuze is talking about canvas, what happens when people paint, the connection between the arm & the painting. He [Deleuze] says that there is chaos & that there’s a connection between chaos & creativity. There is a connection between the hand & the canvas, there’s all this beautiful, beautiful stuff. I’m just puzzled, if we are in fact trying to do Deleuze from a Hegelian perspective when we are trying to debate about the meaning of words. When we are fixated on these terms we’re somehow not allowed to misrepresent it, to open it, to question it & to distance from it.
Aurelio: …great point, we have in the introduction to the book Pure Immanence, we have the simple distinction fro the word ‘is’ & the word ‘and’. ‘Is’ is the old-guard like with Hegel & ‘and’ is. When we’re trying to define these words so precisely, we’re doing & asking what is this, what is the judgment….um we’re transcending while ignoring the immanence of Deleuze. Instead of paying attention to the differeneces, the ‘and’, the relationships that’s not the universal that we’re so used to, so then we have considerable difficulty moving out of this way of thinking about things.
Hollman: …these are things we’re still debating.
Aurelio: …but, I didn’t really get what you were saying about Agamben, because he too was Hegelian.
Hollman: Yes, he’s still loyal to Hegel. Somehow is just stuck me the other day that we’re still going back to the ‘word’ in Greek & what it meant for the Greeks & the definitions for the ‘word’ for the Romans & what it meant for all these old languages. We seem to assume, or imply this arborescence, where there’s this root that knowledge stems out of, we just transcend all the knowledge & it seems like we’re still there. Even if we are wanting to talk about this Deleuzian knowledge we’re still not there. We verbalize it, but we have not assumed it, we have not ingrained it within the range of our perceptions, in our comprehension of things. I find this problematic.
This is a side note…the lack of critical perspective towards D&G, we spoke of this last night, where there are people who take D&G like a religion. I think this is the greatest disservice that you can do to their ideas. If there is anything you do is to find distance from them to criticize them from their own specific margins & to try to open up spaces for possibility & as an alternative for what they wanted, for these things I will even be happy perhaps.
There is a strain of military use for Deleuze in the Israeli military & apparently they have used it in the margins of Deleuzian theory. There’s an ethical debate about what you do to the theory & what you do for the memory of the author. I think this is an interesting exercise to say the least, that is, to open the possibility for the theory to be used, to get the theory & push it, to get it beyond where it was not meant to be, to deploy it & yet, to continue in this usage in a military context that I’m speaking of.
Aurelio: …okay, then with Nietzsche’s eternal return we have difficulties because it always sounds like, to our ears, like it’s a return of the same & it sounds like it’s circular. You’ll hear how…um, I was looking at a YouTube video on this & they go on & on with how this eternal return is reaching back to ancient thought & how it’s just that a return of the same…& it’s precisely not that. Because it’s vital to see this as eternal return of the different. Because with Deleuze we are thinking of difference, immanence, univocity these ever-present terms (again) we are in a way trying hard to get away from universalizing how we see things & when we’re thinking about the eternal return of the different, we’re acknowledging these differences, we’re opening to that difference. We are always stuck on these over-generalizations, especially when we look & think of people. Often, we hover around these generalities with respect to how we view others. This becomes painful because it’s not looking for uniqueness, difference…I’ll let you talk more…
Hollman: I think that one of the issues with the eternal return of Nietzsche’s, has to do with the word return. I can’t understand for the life of me why people keep insisting on this eternal return of the same, over & over. At this point I’ll have to ask: what’s the difference between that & the myth of Sisyphus? …you wouldn’t have any difference, you’d be carrying the same stone up & down without any…without any grace. The important thing to keep in mind is that every repetition is different & this is basic. I think the depth of all this has not been explored & I think that on an ontological level this needs to be reassessed. I still haven’t got to it, but from what I’ve read Deleuze touches on these issues in this green book Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. He seems to be pointing in that direction, I’m still working into this.
My loyalty is also with Nietzsche, perhaps this is in a general context, or a biographical one & so I believe as we we’re saying to a point earlier, we still need to break with traditions that we depend on, with ideas like meaning, religion…somehow we need to acknowledge that we are the owners of who we are & then we can play along those lines. We need to stop carrying all this baggage that has been deployed upon us…
Aurelio: …like Nietzsche’s metaphor of the camel carrying a spiritual burden, that’s to be cast off & then becoming a baby, a new beginning.
Hollman: …yes, basically like that. We need to assume the responsibility for who we are, for good & for bad, we need to reveal who we are. For me at a biographical level Nietzsche was fundamental for that. There are these moral values that are bestowed upon you & it’s you choice to distance yourself from them. All of this is something that remains in the background for me, the ability to be free, to exercise the ability to choose who you are…within all these little domains & constraints that are imposed from the beginning, that perhaps we’ll never be able to get rid of, yet we’ll always try & yes, that’s the idea to keep trying.
Aurelio: …well yeah, it’s the difference between the affirmation & the reactionary. To be sure the affirmation is where you’re affirming life. Whereas the reaction is where you’re in this ivory tower saying ‘I know better than you’, turning to a constant ‘no, no, no,…my morals are better than your way of living’, which of course is a more reactionary way of living & thinking…this at least is my understanding of how Deleuze was reading Nietzsche. What I also find interesting in what you just said is the subtle point you made about repetition, because this term is so important with regard to Deleuze’s book Difference & Repetition. I see an important nuance where we have this illusion that when things are repeated that they are merely a repetition of the same thing over & over again. We rarely stop to notice that every time, say in the case of language, when we actually repeat something it is still different every time we say it. This is another way, I believe for Deleuze to get away from this universalizing. You’ll notice that the universal is my term in this case & it works here because it has so much to do with transcending, therefore we transcend the repetition to then make it all the same. If anything is repeated it’s nothing but the same. This kind of misconception is what Deleuze is getting away with, uh excuse me, getting away from using Nietzsche.
…moving on, I definitely wanted to ask a little more about this challenging of transcendence, since Deleuze is speaks of a ‘transcendental empiricism’. As I was already alluding to Deleuze isn’t going with Kant’s a priori/categorical reasoning, that is assuming a preexisting fundamental way that we apprehend to world. Deleuze goes with Hume to reject this in an empirical sense & to base thinking in the sensual, relational & associative way that we operate in the world, all the while accounting for contingency, multiplicity, difference, variety &c. Now what is tricky is the Deleuze has to account for a particular kind of transcendence that’s unlike Kant’s, where we do have to transcend things in order to get to the basics of thought & experience that are unavailable strictly via the senses. I feel that Deleuze wants to get away from transcendence, but he just can’t do it. What I want to ask you is given all this, what’s a good way to approach Deleuze’s writing? What I mean is, how can we use his thought without using it as representative of something else? For instance in D&G’s 1,000 Plateaus the chapter “1837: Of the Refrain”speaks a lot of assemblages, territory, deterritorialization, the machine, the specifics of ethology/ornithology along with other things. Yeah, we have these things as relational, how they’re complexities are overlapping, transforming, becoming & ‘stratifying’ (so we then have these geologic implications)…so what I’m getting to is that how does this work with how to use his ideas, because if like with univocity we’re not looking at things representationally anymore, can we still just apply Deleuze’s thinking on birds to the way we live, I mean isn’t this using him representationally? Maybe I answered my question by realizing the Deleuze had still account for the transcendental, or even the virtual [Badiou was critical of this term virtual with respect to Deleuze’s transcendental problems], which seems to transcendentalize the present, not as a possible, instead an ‘emergent potential’. What do you have to say to all this, am I making sense? …maybe you can bring light to this misunderstanding for me?
Hollman: There is a beautiful quote from Deleuze from one of his lessons on Kant & the quote essentially is that we don’t understand anything, but it’s beautiful. I think that when trying to engage with Deleuze at certain times, it’s basically that…I mean, what the hell is that?…it’s beautiful! I think there needs to be commitment to engage with Deleuze & I’m not sure if I will ever understand everything that he says. There are constant references to geology, to musicology, to different fields, to complex theories, that I’ll really have a hard time wrapping my head around. It seems that when you read him it appears accessible, so when you go the full extent to what he’s doing it doesn’t seem all that accessible at all. The possibilities of Deleuze are about access. If I were asked what’s the best book to get Deleuze, I’d say the book What’s Philosophy, with this there will be an entry point, we he says philosophy should be doing this & here we’ll find the basics of what he’s doing. From there on you can just push, you can begin. If you are daring you can begin with 1,000 Plateaus. One of the beauties of Deleuze is that it’s messy through & through, not necessarily messy verses ordered, rather messy as rhizomatic & any entry point will eventually lead you to different points & hopefully it will make sense. I think there are endless possibilities with Deleuze & most of this has not been explored. Somehow, there’ been all this focus on what Deleuze meant with all his terms. There has been a lack with what can be done with Deleuze. I still have yet to see someone who says this is a Deleuze application, then to see how this is loyal, or disloyal, this would be an fascinating twist on things. I’ve seen a lot of Foucault applied to criminality, Foucault applied to different perspectives on the penal system. I just seems that Deleuze has not been taken there yet & it’s an open possibility that remains to pushed & explored.
Aurelio: …what about the Israeli military usage you spoke of?
Hollman: …yes, but is that the only way in which Deleuze can be pushed? I’ve been thinking about the recent riots in England, I’m thinking if there’s something there, if we could see this from a political perspective & then try to read the phenomena from a Deleuzian vantage, but I still have to sit down & see how that would be possible. There are connections keys & points from which you can arrange things. Maybe with the speed of things as they’re happening doesn’t allow this option as of yet.
Aurelio: …while looking to the 1,000 Plateauschapter on the refrain, we could venture a metaphor where the riots are deterritorializing machine that is working from within the territory to take it to a newer chaos that then becomes a renewed territory. But see this is the main question I have, that is are we performing a disservice by suggesting, for instance, when a bird sings he claiming his territory & I know that I’m in their territory when I hear them chirping? [Hollman has two parakeets in the same room as we’re talking] So, is it a mistake to read him metaphorically in this way? To carry over his examples to our situational problems & that kind of thing, is this really a mistake with Deleuze?
Hollman: I think there is a necessary point at which this needs to happen. There is a necessary point at which Deleuze needs to be understood & misapplied. This would be doing Deleuze a disservice & that would be a re-appropriation of him. This is like what he did with Hume, Leibniz & Spinoza, that is, to take their theories to perform a kind of collage, give them a birth, give them a child that resembles their theory but is not entirely their own. I think Žižek talks about this, that is, why can’t anyone do this with Deleuze?—since he did that to all these other authors? Basically why would this kind of disservice not be an option?—it would be an interesting option. If it will be opposed to him then it should be done. Things need to remain open & eventually we’ll get to a more Deleuzian way of doing things. When you bring up the word chaos, I think yes, that’s awesome, but we need to stop & explain that chaos is not always about desperation & disorder. Chaos is a productive thing that is lying there & we can exploit it. Yet, with all of this, we are still hung-up on categories to understand the world. We need to work on this at the same time as when we’re trying so hard to understand Deleuze.
Aurelio: ….then Deleuze is still too new for us in a way, because we’re lodged in those Kantian & Hegelian categories that are seemingly impossible to get away from, that Deleuze was then working so hard to get us away from, to break them down. With what you just said, we could say that we too are different from Deleuze & we are not obliged to have this catechism, in fact these parochialisms that are way too distracting, as you’ve suggested again & again.
In a recent message you sent me, you said that “If I had to define my focus, I will say it is the constitution and comprehension of violence as a political phenomenon.” I’m wanting to know if you can relate any of this to Deleuze’s thought? I know that his thinking on difference has political overtones with respect to minority groups & how they’re looked at & how they look at themselves.
Hollman: One of the questions that remains in political philosophy is the place, the circumstances & the validity of violence, specifically political violence. When is political violence an option? How, why & for how long? After 9/11 it seems that the doors were closed, the discussion never happened, but it was assumed & agreed upon that violence was never an option, violence was never an alternative. As soon as you use violence…
Aurelio: …assumed by whom?
Hollman: …um, by the establishment in general. Almost any radio station in Vancouver would frown upon riots…however…
Aurelio: Violence in terms of being attacked?
Hollman: Violence as a political means of expression & that this wasn’t an alternative. I’m still convinced there there are circumstances that this can be a vehicle, whether you agree or disagree.
Aurelio: …then you’re suggesting that there’s this underlying pacifism?
Hollman: I don’t think it’s about pacifism, rather a refusal to accept that when there’s no other alternative, violence is an alternative. This kind of extreme refusal is what we need to move away from & this is my concern. Again, how, when & why is violence an option? There is a quote from Guattari, somewhere along the line that revolutions need to happen in peace, that there needs to be peace for revolutions to happen. This can be read it two ways: if you don’t want a revolution to happen you keep the same mayhem over & over so that nothing really changes, it’s always the same, the same mayhem. If there’s not ever peace, the possibility for revolution is not really there, so that’s questionable. There needs to be a commitment to change & difference, to the alternative, the otherness of the situation that we live in. As soon as we close this door we are in a mythological realm of repetition not understood in a Deleuzian sense, but as a castration of alternatives & I think this is terrible from a political view. As soon as we assume to know all that there is to know about all the alternatives, this is the most dangerous place to be. I see in the exercise of violence as a cry for an openness & there is a refusal to accept this as a possibility. There is an inherent need to rationalize violence & I think that there are certain kinds of violence that are vital, this is an option to explore to look into, to go through. There are potentials, drives & forces of violence to be opened.
Aurelio: Violence is a machine that forces the deterritorializing of the status quo.
Hollman: …there is an inherent need & fear of this process of deterritiorialization. I think this is the flux of things. I’m not trying to justify violence as a phenomena, I just want to comprehend it, to try to see it from a different angle. There is a theologian from the 1300 or 1400’s, I don’t remember his name, but even the church authorized the use of violence as an option when all other options are closed. We just haven’t got beyond the positions of the church of the 1400’s, we’re just saying no violence & it is just not an option. This is so contentious that it’s allegedly one of the reasons why Foucault & Deleuze stopped talking, this was really around the issues of violence & terrorism. Allegedly there was someone from a Soviet Eastern-bloc country, I don’t know exactly where, D&G were passing a petition to get this guy to France so that he wouldn’t be deported. This guy was known to be using terror as a means of communicating his political interests. Foucault was saying that if you use terror, you close the door, you close the discussion & Deleuze was opposed to this view. This is one of the discussions that led to their separation & put a halt to their relationship.
Aurelio: …yes, the machine cuts into the territory & then we again are here with the refrain of our singularities, our differences, our multiplicities &c…
August 21, 2011 § 1 Comment
Mieke from Ghent, Belgium sent me the following text after a brief discussion asking her to contribute a post for this blog: Luctor et Emergo. To my surprise she dedicated it to me & for that I’ll always be grateful. In addition to writing this essay Meike also translated it from Dutch into English for this specific use.
When I read through the text, I’m reminded of Heidegger’s famous insistence that truth is disclosure, uncovering, revealing—this is best referred to with his revival of the ancient Greek word aletheia (ἀλήθεια). Back in March 2011 I wrote a detailed post on Heidegger’s essay: On the Origin of the Work of Art, his essay was written in the 1930’s & was presented as a series of lectures at that time. It wasn’t published as a full text till the 1950’s.
What is of primary importance for Heidegger in his many writings, is his elaboration of the word aletheia. If anything is said about this term, we’ll be sure to place it at the center of how Heidegger understands the work of art, primarily & primordially, intrinsically. The work of art is alethiea for Heidegger. For this placement Heidegger had to work hard to dislodge our traditional perceptions concerning the issues of truth & how we think of it. He had to show that alethiea preceded an assertion (judgment), it preceded a necessary agreement with the object & our idea/s of the object, & that truth/alethiea was much more than the logical & rational. With all of this said, I’ll risk quoting myself (from the post) to illustrate roughly how I understood Heidegger’s truth, of course, this is done with the effort to engage Mieke’s text in a way that hopefully speaks to her main ideas concerning poetic truth. (Note: Heidegger is referred to here as MH. OWA is the notation for The Origin of a Work of Art. Also see: Being & Time Div. 1, §44, “Dasien, Disclosedness & Truth”) )
As we’ve noted aletheia (ἀλήθεια) is unconcealment, a revealing, a disclosure, it’s before logos (λόγος), before the apophansis (απόφανσις) of Husserl, & even before we can say anything about our apprehension of the phenomena. MH proposes that the phenomena of unconcealing is already there to be revealed by us (or not, depending). We have to be open to that which is revealed, attending to it, striving, perhaps in the mode of discovery as phenomenologically opened. MH quickly thrusts us in the clearing. “The clearing in which beings stand is in itself at the same time concealment.” (178/OWA) As much as anything can reveal itself in the clearing, there will be concealment. “Truth, is in its essence un-truth.” (179/OWA) Certain aspects of a being have to be concealed, mistaken, overlooked, misinterpreted, so that the truth (ἀλήθεια) that’s sought for & can be brought forth. MH’s clearing must be a recognition of aletheia (ἀλήθεια) as that which has not yet been opened.
Gaston Bachelard — The Phenomenology of the Imagination / by Mieke
(Note: to preserve a sense of a typed page that includes Mieke’s footnotes, each ‘page’ is divided here by a line. Each line simply represents a page turn.)
“The poet stands on the threshold of being”, says Bachelard. The language of the poet, the poetic image, is primary to the language of ideas. It is closer to the real experience. The image always comes before thought, before abstract thinking. One of the first things a philosopher should do, if he wants to learn something from the poetic images, is to leave everything behind. All foregoing knowledge. As a phenomenologist, but a phenomenologist of the imagination, he must be receptive, receptive to the image at the moment it appears. In a way he must look with a poetic eye, which is time and again a first glance. “If there be a philosophy of poetry”, Bachelard says, then it is “a philosophy that must appear and re-appear through a significant verse, in total adherence to an isolated image, in the very ecstasy of the newness of the image.”1 From this very sentence emerges the agility, the liveliness, the novelty also of a philosophy that gives priority to the imagination. Moreover, according to Bachelard, a philosopher who has recourse to the poets will discover that the world is not of the order of the substantive, but of the order of the adjective.
“And when a philosopher looks to poets, to a great poet like Milosz, for lessons in how to individualize the world, he soon becomes convinced, that the world is not so much a noun as an adjective. If we were to give the imagination its due in the philosophical systems of the universe, we should find, at their very source, an adjective. Indeed, to those who want to find the essence of a world philosophy, one could give the following advice – look for its adjective”2
I would like to start from this idea of Bachelard that a connection exists between the search for the essence or for the description of being, and the imagination and its expression in an ever living language3. As a start I want to submit this idea to a few poets/thinkers.
1 G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, “Introduction”, p.xv-xxxix
2 G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, “Corners”, p.143-144
3 P. Verbeeck, Verbeeldingskracht, p.40: “Elle doit être franchement langage vivant.”
In What Difference did Stesíchoros Make? 4 one of the introductory pieces in her
Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson tells the story of the poet Stesíchoros and the adjectives. “Adjectives”, she writes, “seem fairly innocent additions but look again. These small imported mechanisms are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being.” Or at least, they were, in the world of the Homeric epic poem. Homer applied the adjective with a passion for the rule: blood was always black, human knees were always quick, coward’s livers were always white… Being seemed very stable under this rule. But then came Stesíchoros.
Stesíchoros studied Homer’s rule restlessly and all of a sudden, “for no reason that anyone can name, Stesíchoros began to undo the latches.” He released being,5 says Anne Carson, “all the substances in the world went floating up. Suddenly there was nothing to interfere with horses being hollow hooved. Or a river being root silver…” That these adjectives appeared to be not so innocent Stesíchoros would soon experience. “When Stesíchoros unlatched her epithet from Helen there flowed out such a light as may have blinded him for a moment.” A reference to this anecdote on Stesíchoros’ blindness we can also find in Plato’s Phaedrus.
The moment Socrates comprehends that his first speech to Phaedrus is on the edge of godless he wants to make this up. “I bethink me of an ancient purgation of mythological error”, he explains to Phaedrus, “which was devised, not by Homer, for he never had the wit to discover why he was blind, but by Stesíchoros, who was a philosopher and knew the reason why; and therefore, when he lost his eyes, for that was the penalty which was inflicted upon him for reviling the lovely Helen, he at once purged himself. And the purgation was a recantation,
4 A. Carson (poet), Autobiography of Red, “Red meat: What difference did Stesichoros make?”, p.3-7
5 Consider Anne Carson’s description beside the following fragment of hellenist W.S.Barrett in Greek Lyric, Tragedy and Textual Criticism: “And then to sum up my impression of the poetry. When so much of Stesichoros’ effect must have been achieved on the grand scale, by the broad sweep of his narrative, it would be unfair to judge him more than provisionally on these tattered and uncertain
scraps; but even from these something has begun to emerge. One can see now something of the merits that the ancient critics found: the resemblance to Homer, the dignity of his characters, the grandeur of his theme. At the same time one can see something of his faults: a certain lack of control, evinced not merely in the over-fullness or diffuseness that Quintilian castigates but also, I suspect, in a certain carelessness or muddle-headedness in his thought and language. But the faults, so far as one can tell, weigh little against the merits: my appetite is whetted, and I hope most earnestly that the papyri will one day give us something that we can really read and really Judge.” The faults of Stesíchoros, according to Barrett. Bachelard’s “The critical mind can do nothing about this.” (PoS p.146) is not far
which began thus: False is that word of mine / the truth is that thou didst not embark in / ships, nor ever go to the walls of Troy; and when he had completed his poem, which is called the recantation, immediately his sight returned to him.”6 We know that Plato’s view of art and artists was ambiguous. It does make sense to keep this in mind with regard to this fragment, as it explains also what was Plato’s idea of a living language. Plato’s thinking is commonly considered to be hostile to art. This goes back to The Republic 7 in which he proclaims that poets like Hesiodos and Homer are sophists and warns us for the risks that lie in comedy and tragedy. The dialogues in Symposium and Phaedrus tend to soften this view. Clearly there is Plato’s own style. Plato was aware that theatre is not a mere spectacle, more than sight it also presumes insight. Better than any other person he succeeds in adopting the techniques of the tragic art in his thinking. With Plato philosophy turns into art. Therefore his disapproval of writing in Phaedrus shouldn’t be read necessarily as an absolute disapproval. Rather as a disapproval of bad writing, a disapproval of written texts of which “you would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer.” The ideal Socrates opposes to this is “the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which the written word is properly no more than an image,”8 which is, of course, Plato’s own writing.
According to a different way of reading9 Plato achieves the opposite. He serves poetry well by declaring it atopical. By according poetry no room at all, he plunges it into a deadly crisis. If it overcomes this crisis, its presence will be compelling, its authenticity definitely proven, and it will have a right to exist. True poetry must never be obvious.
These shades of meaning may clarify Socrates’ respect for the poet Stesíchoros, as it comes to the fore in the above-mentioned fragment. Stesíchoros is not only aware of his error, he knows also how he can make it up, and starts at once to write a palinody. He may be a poet, but by his insight and his love for beauty he gets a rightful place near the philosophers.10
“He came after Homer and before Gertrude Stein, a difficult interval for a poet,” Anne Carson writes.
6 Plato, Phaedrus, 243a-b
7 Plato, The Republic, 377d, 605c-606d
8 Plato, Phaedrus, 275d-276a. Also, according to Cornelis Verhoeven the discussion is not about the written against the spoken word, but Socrates and Phaedrus discuss the precariousness of the verbal medium as such.(C.Verhoeven p.37)
9 C. Verhoeven, Het medium van de waarheid, p.192
10 In Plato’s hierarchy of reincarnations the philosophers (filosófos) and lovers of beauty (filokálos) are located at the very top. The other poets and imitating artists are located much lower, they take 6th place in the hierarchy. This classification shows Plato’s ambiguous attitude towards art and the artists.
We know Nietzsche admired Plato’s power of thought and especially its artistic quality, but his idealism he resolutely wiped off the map. For Nietzsche even the essence is perspectival, a plurality. Against Plato’s eternal wide ocean11 Nietzsche poses a to-and-fro of motley rainbows12, against the vision of eternal beauty he poses his abysmal thought and the vision of the lonesome one. He regards himself as the first tragic philosopher.13
pages 215-216 from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra
In Nietzsche’s view the artist has the ability to look at the world through many eyes. Like all the other arts the art of writing is absolutely indispensable because it unlatches thought. Style can never be disconnected from conceptual contents. “To improve one’s style means to improve one’s thoughts and nothing else!”14
When Nietzsche lets Zarathustra say, about too lazy poets, that they lie too much: “superficial are they all unto me, and shallow seas. They did not think sufficiently into the depth; therefore their feeling did not reach to the bottom”,15 we can understand that he speaks out of a sense of importance that he attaches to the phrasing of the experience, from as many diverse perspectives as possible. The choice of a style is equal to the choice of a perspective. In Ecce Homo he tells how Zarathustra came into being. This text is full of references to premonitions, omens, thoughts that assault him, even the character Zarathustra fell upon him. Nietzsche’s description of his experience of poetic inspiration is very close to Bachelard’s fundamental reverie. “The involuntary nature of the figures and similes is the most remarkable thing; one loses all perception of what is imagery and metaphor; everything seems to present itself as the readiest, the truest, and simplest means of expression. It actually seems, to use one of Zarathustra’s own phrases, as if all things came to one, and offered themselves as similes.”16 According to Nietzsche the poets of his time, and of many ages before, lack this inspiration. Zarathustra calls it out: “what have they known hitherto of the fervor of tones!”
11 Plato, Symposium, 210d-211c
12 F. Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “The convalescent”
13 F. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, “The birth of tragedy”
14 F. Nietzsche, Human, all too human, “The wanderer and his shadow”
15 F. Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Poets”
16 F. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, “Thus spake Zarathustra: a book for all and none”
“Passion for substances.” Thus Anne Carson describes the moment Stesíchoros pulls the latches out of the adjectives. Bachelard shows a similar drive in his plea in favor of a phenomenology of the imagination. In the same way that Stesíchoros incessantly studied Homer’s rule, Bachelard intently listens to the philosophical jargon, and realizes that he cannot live it. “Such formulas as: being-in-the-world and world-being are too majestic for me and I do not succeed in experiencing them. In fact, I feel more at home in miniature worlds.”17 And that is precisely what the philosopher can learn from the poet. In a very nice passage in this text Victor Hugo is sitting on a little square of grass and studies it, meticulously, totally unaware of the majestic landscape that unfolds in front of him, and concludes that the microscopic universe in the grass is as grand as the other. These are reveries not unknown to the slow reader, Bachelard says. “Now the poet has given them literary dignity. It is my ambition to give them philosophical dignity. For in fact, the poet is right, he has just discovered an entire world.”18 The poet is not mistaken. These are the words with which Bachelard opens wide the weather-beaten door that Plato once resolutely closed.
“But that is enough proemium. You can answer for yourself the question What difference did Stesíchoros make? by considering his masterpiece,” concludes Anne Carson. An invitation of the poet.
Mieke / May 2011
17 G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, “Miniature”, p.161
18 G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, “Miniature”, p.160
—Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon, 1994, 241 p.
—Barrett, W.S., Greek Lyric, Tragedy and Textual Criticism, Oxford: University Press, 2007, p.1-24
—Carson, Anne, Autobiography of Red. A Novel in Verse, London: Cape, 1999, 149 p.
—Nietzsche, Friedrich, Aldus sprak Zarathoestra. Een boek voor allen en voor niemand, vert. P Endt – H. Marsman, Amsterdam: Wereldbibliotheek, 2010, eenendertigste druk, 251 p. (Oorspronkelijke titel: Also sprach Zarathustra)
—Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce homo. Hoe iemand wordt wat hij is, vert. P. Beers, Amsterdam – Antwerpen: Arbeiderspers, 2005, 158 p. (Oorspronkelijke titel: Ecce homo)
—Plato, Verzameld werk, Baarn: Ambo, 1978, vert. X. De Win, 5 vols. (English translation of citations Plato and Nietzsche via Gutenberg.org & Achive.org) —Verbeeck, Philippe, Verbeeldingskracht. Bijdragen tot de antropologie van het imaginaire, tekst bij het Onderzoeksseminarie esthetica, 2010-2011.
—Verhoeven, Cornelis, Het medium van de waarheid. Beschouwingen over Plato’s houding tegenover de poëzie, Baarn: Ambo, 246 p.