Wednesday, May 30, 2007

His many-sided playfulness bursting out

Sri Aurobindo's Humour
The present bunch of letters, brimming with humour, culled from my correspondence, will, I hope, dispel the mist of ignorance and reveal Sri Aurobindo as a Yogi who found rasa in every circumstance of life, for he himself was raso vai sah, "Verily he is the Delight."
His many-sided playfulness bursting out on any trivial or serious occasion will make a delectable feast for all lovers of laughter. And these letters are just a fraction of his divine levity. - NirodBaran
General - Humour
Correspondence - Humour
Poetic - Humour
Medical - Humour Part I
Medical - Humour Part II
Medical - Humour Part III

Monday, May 28, 2007

He was perhaps the first great email guru. He spent night after night for decades writing ten-liners to his disciples

Re: Savitri, Surrender and the Void by Rod Hemsell
by Rod on Sun 27 May 2007 07:25 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
I too felt like pouncing on the assertion of fact, but let me try another tack. To bring this delightful exchange to a close, let me refer to some lines that I quoted in the commentary on Savitri with which this discussion began.
A stillness absolute, incommunicable,
Meets the sheer self-discovery of the soul;
Then suddenly there came a downward look.
As if a sea exploring its own depths,
A living Oneness widened at its core
And joined him to unnumbered multitudes.
On the basis of these explicit statements about the soul, and at least a hundred other similar ones to which I have frequently referred in my commentaries on Savitri, I believe it is a fact that the purusa which experiences the stillness of the void is the same one which experiences the sea of oneness. And since there is no other than this Self, seated in fact in the heart, what it experiences is the Void as itself, and then the oneness of all as itself. Moreover, as is repeatedly illustrated in Savitri, the void experience precedes the oneness experience. These are textual facts. I will not go so far as to say that they are facts of existence, though I believe that they are, based on experience. It is a fact of experience that these are facts of existence. Sri Aurobindo has tried to help us understand these ffacts of spiritual experience, to say the least.
He was perhaps the first great email guru. He spent night after night for decades writing ten-liners to his disciples. I'm sure he would have used a laptop if he could. A speculative certainty. But he would not have relied on the message alone. He had the force of the Mother and the devotion of the sadhaks to make his efforts worthwhile.

You may find it difficult avoiding the Casaubon Delusion

In another article on this site, The Casaubon Delusion, I talk about the lure of totality belief systems. Succumbing to the temptation to adopt such belief systems is the delusion in question. Even if you are one of those people who wish to avoid falling into the toils of the Casaubon delusion, you may find it difficult to do so. Anthony Campbell
In George Eliot's Middlemarch, Edward Casaubon spends his life in a futile attempt to find a comprehensive explanatory framework for the whole of mythology. He is writing a book which he calls the Key to all Mythologies. This is intended to show that all the mythologies of the world are corrupt fragments of an ancient corpus of knowledge, to which he alone has the key. Poor Mr Casaubon is, of course, deluded. His young wife Dorothea is at first dazzled by what she takes to be his brilliance and erudition, only to find, by the time he is on his deathbed, that the whole plan was absurd and she can do nothing with the fragments of the book that she is supposed to put into order for publication.
In honour of Mr Casaubon, I have given this tendency of the mind to search for all-inclusive answers the name Casaubon delusion. I believe we are all liable to fall into it in one way or another, probably because it is an exaggeration of an inbuilt function of our minds. Typically the supplying of such answers is the province of religion, although something similar can occur in science too.
The search for explanations is a normal and healthy function of the mind as a rule, but it can become abnormal and pathological if it is allowed to develop to excess. The problem arises when we push the desire for explanation too far, and impose our wishes on the world so as to make it conform to how we would like it to be. A very characteristic feature of the Casaubon delusion is the belief that the universe is constructed like a kind of giant cipher, a cosmic intelligence test set for us by God which it is our business to try to puzzle out. Mr Casaubon himself is of course an illustration of this, but he is following on a long tradition. Complete esoteric systems have been founded on this belief.
The late J.G. Bennett was a remarkable instance of how the Casaubon delusion can come to dominate someone's life. Throughout his life he was taken over (taken in?) by an extraordinary variety of gurus and mystagogues, including G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Pak Subuh, and Idries Shah. He was convinced that there was a secret tradition of teachers and initiates in Central Asia, existing from time immemorial and guiding the destinies of humanity, an idea that figures in his monumental work on the inner history of the cosmos, The Dramatic Universe. He was repeatedly disappointed in his quest to find authentic representatives of this Wisdom Tradition but never ceased to believe that there was indeed a Tradition to be discovered. In the end he was received into the Catholic Church, where he apparently found fulfillment.
There's no doubt that, for most of us, belief systems afford a welcome sense of security. Often we behave towards them in much the way that hermit crabs behave towards the empty mollusc shells they use as homes. These crabs, you will recall, have a tough front which they present to the world but a vulnerable rear end that has to be housed in the shells of dead molluscs. The shell that serves the crab as home is at once a refuge and a liability. It protects him from his enemies but he has to drag it about with him wherever he goes; he dare not leave it for an instant. This encumbrance is a liability, and a further liability is that, as he grows, he eventually reaches a size at which he can no longer fit inside the old shell; he then has to search for a new one. Once he has changed house, the whole process starts all over again. He will never be free from dependence on cast-off shells for as long as he lives.
Mr Casaubon's error was to think it was possible to discover an 'answer to everything'. In his case the search for such a thing was absurd, yet the idea was not wholly wrong. It is, after all, the quest for understanding that drives scientists to theorize, and the more comprehensive the theory - the more facts it explains - the 'deeper' the theory. Newton's laws of motion and theory of gravitation are classic examples of such explanations. Today some physicists are searching for a 'Theory of Everything', but others say that such theories are in principle untestable and are more like metaphysics than science.
One might ask why it is that people do seem to have this propensity to seek for such all-inclusive beliefs. In part the answer may be that our brains have been programmed by our evolutionary history to make us susceptible to them. The propensity may be merely an exaggeration of the natural pattern-making function of the brain, which must certainly go far back in prehistory. Whether as hunter or hunted, animals need to be able to pick out and identify meaningful features of their environment. A tiger looking for an antelope amid the leaves of the jungle, the antelope watching out for the tiger, or a bird trying to pick out a moth camouflaged against the bark of a tree--all these are seeking for visual patterns. We have to do the same thing when we cross a busy road: we won't last long if we fail to pick out the pattern of an oncoming bus... HOME See also Living with Uncertainty and Avoiding the Casaubon Delusion Home page:

In George Eliot's Middlemarch, Edward Casaubon spends his life in a futile attempt to find a comprehensive explanatory framework

larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 4:17 pm Problems are not in the head, but are, for me, virtual realities out there in the world. They are objective entities defined by constellations and are certainly not negative. The grown tree, for instance, is a solution to the problem of its soil, water, light, and air conditions as they specifically characterize that milieu. We don’t refer to the tree as being adequate or inadquate (unless we’re Aristotleans or Hegelians and believe in final causes and forms), but see it as a specific response to this particular field. So too with concepts. A concept is always a specific response or solution to the field in which it emerges.
It is in this regard that I feel that the critical stance is a sort of neurosis– specifically, an obsessional neurosis. The obsessional is the one who is constantly making preparations to pursue his desire without ever finally pursuing his desire. For instance, he endlessly plans a first date with a woman he ardently loves, wishing for it to be absolutely perfect. Fifty years later he dies or she dies and he’s never asked her out on the date. Indeed, she’s not even aware that he was interested in her. This occurs often with political theory as well. Endless preparations to get things just right without jumping into the fray.
This is the issue I have with epistemology: Kantianism, Husserl’s endless phenomenological reductions, Heidegger’s endless preparations to pose the question of the meaning of being (he argues that there has to be all sorts of preliminary work before the question itself can even be posed!), the epistemological debates of the 17th century, and yes, the endless refinements of critique among the critical theorists. Lacan liked to say that obsessional desire is the desire for an impossible desire. As a structure– i.e., something about a particular form of life, not an individual –obsessional desire sustains its desire by perpetually deferring the object of its desire, and it defers its object of desire by rendering that desire impossible. Critique, in my view, often functions in this way.
By contrast, I have a “Macguyver” approach to theory building. You’ll recall Mcguyver from the 80s. He was the guy that had the swiss army knife that would find his way out of any situation so long as he had some duct tape and a few odds and ends. You work with what you have, always midstream, and with what the situation affords and hopefully your produce something in the process. Once again, essentially, I think about these issues in biological terms. Evolving life doesn’t sit about asking which form would be best or most adequate to the ecosystem it lives in. No, it experiments and sometimes is successful and sometimes is not successful. Non-experimentalist critical stances just strike me as holdovers from representationalist philosophies that haven’t yet caught on to the fact that their questions of adequacy are questions that only make sense in the context of a world that is lost.
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 6:37 pm You ask about our situation, when the ontological claim is that there are situations. Some of those situations happen to have agents in them, many do not. This is precisely the reason I chose the example an acorn (something that is not human or social) rather than an example drawn from political theory. The political examples are a subset of a more general ontological principle. However, to answer your question, because everything that comes-to-be or is actualized does so within a constellation, this would hold of theory just as it would hold of acorns or planets in a solar system. I guess I should really emphasize and underline that I’m developing an “anti-humanist” ontology here. By this I don’t mean something that is “against the human” but rather something that doesn’t treat humans, agents, knowers, etc., as the center but treats them as one case within the spectrum of being...
The problem I have with the other approaches you mention is that I perceive them as subordinating discussion of anything in the world to cultural categories, whether those categories be history, economics, linguistics, social formations, and so on. As a result, a regional ontology (the theory of a particular type of being such as sociology, linguistics, history, and so on) comes to precede general ontology. Usually these positions fall into a sort of skepticism. On the one hand, I see this as a way critical theorists and other cultural critics deal with anxieties and insecurities they have about their place vis a vis hard sciences. They try to trump these other disciplines by telling a story about how these things are culturally contingent. On the other hand, I believe these approaches encourage a way of thinking that leads to cursory analyses of various phenomena. Hence I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too. I want a general ontology that doesn’t perpetually bring issues back to linguistic, historical, and cultural concerns while also respecting and appreciating these modes of analysis...
Okay, but here again you’re shackling general ontological questions to humans and how humans perceive things. This is usually the move that sets me off. That acorn or the moon functions as it does regardless of whether critters such as ourselves theorize about it. We end up with an intrinsically subject centered ontology, a human centered ontology, whenever we make this move and are just repeating the Christological conception of creation with man at the center of things. I think you’re making a number of assumptions about what I’m up to that just aren’t there and this is what’s leading you to ask the sorts of questions you’re asking. I am bracketing these social and historical questions when doing general ontology as I think they’re dead ends, and only bring them into the fray again when I’m focused on specifically political and social questions.
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 7:27 pm One of the things I’m strongly reacting to here is the way, in a certain field of continental philosophy, all questions seem to have become subordinated to political concerns and there’s no legitimacy to forms of inquiry that do not have “political relevance”...
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 10:36 pm One of the reasons I’ve pulled away from Badiou and Zizek so much where social theory is concerned is that I feel they’re ignoring the way in which possibilities come to be envisioned in very specific historical circumstances where issues of technology, nature, economics, and intercultural relations are involved. I believe, for instance, that I’ve argued in the past that women’s suffrage followed the emergence of factory labor in the late 19th early 20th century. I only intend this example as a sort of thumbnail sketch, so hopefully you won’t beat me over it. Here we had women entering the factory, which placed them in very different roles from their traditional roles. Now certainly the intention of factory labor was not to liberate women or give them the right to vote. Yet these possibilities began to emerge for life and practice as a sort of unintended consequence of these shifts in technology, labor organization, and economics.
Drawing analogies to biological speciation, then, we get a sort of “genetic drift”. That is, just as two species of finches can evolve in very different ways when separated geographically from one another, we begin to get a “new species” of woman as a result of this different ecological space, the factory space. At some point, this new species becomes “for itself” (organized, self-aware, self-directing) such that there is an intensification of the process (initially the process still thought of itself in the older terms) and as this “new species” begins to formulate its own identity it feeds back into the social constellation, challenging a number of social institutions and social mores, intensifying the process by which the social field is itself changed.
I give this only as an example. I want to exercise caution when analyzing things in this way as I don’t want to give the impression that there is only one way in which change takes place. This is one of the purposes of the concept of constellations: to look at the specifics of situations and their own immanent organization. I think it’s important here to distinguish between potential and possibility...
I want to be as flexible and open as possible to avoid one-sided and single-answer theoretical approaches. Thus, for instance, I can also see merit in something like what Badiou is describing with his truth-procedures but believe he’s overstating his case and ignoring other important directions from which change comes that involves little in the way of agency or intentional directedness.
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 8:07 pm I don’t have a method, am not interested in developing a method, and am not interested in giving an account of how alternative ideals emerge. What I think is important is that forms of life and existence come to posit alternative ideals. Or maybe my exasperation is that I feel like I give arguments that explain these things all the time, yet still these humanist methodological questions get asked yet again. Honestly it really makes me want to pull my hair out. Enough with the questions about how alternative ideals get formed!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Philosophically and spiritually based community

Editorial by Andrew Cohen
When any one of us awakens in a profound way to a higher state of consciousness, our values inevitably begin to change. We are naturally drawn to others with whom we can share our newly discovered revelation, because in their company we feel we can share the deepest part of our self, our soul, in ways that are ordinarily just not possible. Being together with others in this shared higher context becomes the source of a newfound faith and conviction in the inherent joy and goodness of being alive.
Contrary to my previous culturally conditioned interpretation of the word “community,” I now see our most important philosophically and spiritually based relationships as the only ground upon which conscious or intentional evolution can actually occur. Without being deeply connected with others in a conscious commitment to a shared ideal, there is no way that we will be able to create any kind of future that we are going to want to live in! constellations

We can give the ontology of Buddhist realizations and practices a place in this yoga

Re: Re: Savitri, Surrender and the Void by Rod Hemsell
by Rich on Sat 26 May 2007 09:22 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Rakesh: "it is a known fact that one can experiece the psychic being in the heart centre concretely when one starts sacrificing ego to the divine. There is no need of interpretations or consultations from buddhism."
Rich I think one has to be careful about using the word "fact" in the above context. A "fact" as conventionally understood is an event, process, thing etc which can be empirically demonstrated to a collective audience and regards a scientific fact verified through replication.
What is being referred to here is not a fact but a "textual assertion". And although one can verify these assertions for oneself through personal practice and revelation, (and I may personally agree with your statement) the existence of a soul or the non-existence of a soul (in Buddhism or scientific reductionism) can not be proven as facts. One simply, can not prove or falsify a negative.
by Debashish on Sat 26 May 2007 03:01 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
As RH says - So what is the difference between the Buddhist teaching and this one. In the Mother’s Agenda, she says somewhere that now she understands that the Buddhist teaching is something that has to be learned and realized, not as a final step but in order to take the next step. In itself it doesn’t make possible the taking of that next step. It didn’t bring that special connection with the divine, that new force, into the reach of mortal consciousness. We can reflect that perhaps, historically or psychologically, humanity wasn’t ready, or that this teaching had to come first. However, Sri Aurobindo is conveying in Savitri the spirit and power of that realization as a passage to something very specific, which we might call the yoga of Sri Aurobindo, or the yoga of transformation.
The spiritual problem tackled by Buddhism is not one of transformation. It is not even one of "realization," but of escape from the illusion of Suffering. Hence whether atman or psychic being exists or not or of their location etc. is not of any importance to its goals. But the spiritual ontology of the solution to this problem can be seen in terms of (or as a stage to) the goal of non-dual realization and transformation envisaged by Sri Aurobindo. The psychic being needs to be realized as part of this goal (and its location relative to the body is important since this is an embodied goal), but this does not mean that the Buddhist realization(s) have no place in this path. We do not need to recognize or label these as "Buddhist" and we do not need to arrive at these using the means developed by Buddhist practitioners, but we can, on the other hand, give the ontology of Buddhist realizations and practices a place in this yoga. This helps to create a bridge and a wider trans-cultural understanding which can be of help to a larger number of people. DB
by Debashish on Sat 26 May 2007 01:40 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
Nirvana and Advaita are two aspects of the realization (knowledge by identity) of the Absolute - Ekam eva-adwitiyam brahma sadasat rupam sadasat-atitam (One and non-dual is the Brahman, Being and Non-Being are its forms, it is beyond Being and Non-Being) - Sri Surobindo, Sriaurobindopanishad.
Re: 'In Our Own Image: Humanity's Quest for Divinity via Technology,' by Debashis Chowdhury
by Rod on Sun 27 May 2007 03:15 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
I find it difficult to imagine sharing through the internet the sudden descent of divine force into my body that I experience while sitting beside the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Then, looking up at flowers and people in acts of devotion that transcend their social as well as personal roles (both flowers and people), I experience an enthusiasm for impersonal creativity that includes and transcends all flowers and people, and that enables me to walk back into relations on another footing, so to speak. How can technology possibly covey this transformative value rich experience?

Deleuze is also offering a critique of a number of aspects of Whitehead’s ontology

larvalsubjects Says: May 26th, 2007 at 10:19 pm Whitehead is of interest to me because he develops an ontology of relations, complex systems, and systems that are dynamic and developing, i.e., processes. I do not advocate materialism of the Lucretian or Democritan sort, where everything is ultimately atoms bouncing off one another in the void. In my view, matter is composed of ongoing events and interrelations among events. In the attempt to formulate such a position I’m engaged in research pertaining to any philosopher that has sought to thematize relations, systems, and events. This does not make me a Whitehead. Nothing prevents you from talking about Russell and I’m not sure what would give you this impression. Didn’t you notice a rather productive discussion on this blog about Davidson recently?
I have never claimed allegiance to analytic philosophy or any other philosophical school. I take useful concepts wherever I find them in the attempt to articulate my own thoughts. Psychoanalysis, incidentally, is not a theory of mind but a theory of what takes place in the clinical consulting room between analyst and analysand. You might think of it as a particular sort of micro-sociology. As a result, Hume’s critique of mind is quite irrelevant.
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 5:22 am Glen, so are you seeing Whitehead’s eternal objects as analogous to Deleuze’s sense? I think there’s definitely a strong connection between Deleuze and Whitehead, but increasingly I’m coming to feel that Deleuze is also offering a critique of a number of aspects of Whitehead’s ontology. These eternal objects really leave me scratching my head.

Real potentials that the genuinely existing situation offers for transforming

larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 3:18 am With regard to your first question, I’m looking for a creative ontology, so there would be nothing but situations and the subsequent potentials they produce.
The second question is more complicated. I do understand what I’m doing to encompass both the social and the non-social. This is one of the reasons I often choose non-social examples as I believe that continental theory [wrongly] sutures everything else to the social. I do not believe that philosophy should be a branch of sociology or anthropology as a number in the French and German traditions conceive it, though I do believe that it should take social phenomena seriously as natural phenomena. I can’t get into the questions about human perception at the moment.
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 4:23 am With the first question, it would be the latter option. There will be no point– that I can envision at the moment –where I will do the historical work necessary to fully account for the claims that I’m making in the way you describe. One can’t do everything. As an ontologist I’m more interested in the general framework, not the concrete details...
In my view there’s no such thing as a non-historical theory, however. I just take it that discussing the history of a thing is not always relevant or productive. You have yet to give an argument as to why it should be productive in all circumstances... In short, you have not shown me that there is productive value in the sort of historicization that you’re calling for...
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 5:50 am Tusar, the examples I give such as the acorn and it’s environment are at the center of what I’m trying to talk about. What I’m trying to get at are actually existing conditions and their potentialities… What we find out there in the world in this particular situation. By contrast, Plato is talking about an ideal order of the State. I take it that there would be a very large difference between how India would be analyzed under the theory I’m proposing and under Platonic theory. Here I’m hesitant as I’m sure you know more than I. But under the perspective I’m proposing, we’d have to look at India’s concrete history, economics, geography, etc., to understand why India has formed a social system based on castes in just the way it has...By contrast, Plato is asking himself what the Ideal State is and is thus ignoring these sorts of local and historical conditions...
In addition to the sorts of questions I’m posing about how things came to be in a particular way, there are also questions of how situations might be changed. The question here is that of how we locate potentials within a situation for change. Here I am not alluding to abstract potentials, but the real potentials that the genuinely existing situation offers for transforming this particular form of organization.
larvalsubjects Says: May 27th, 2007 at 6:24 am For me one of the prime questions is that of how certain things might conceptually be made possible for people where before they weren’t. So as I see it, there are two different levels or scales of inquiry here. I get testy when I’m trying to develop something and I’m suddenly being confronted with what I perceive to be a question of “how did this become possible for you to think?” I don’t really care at the moment, I’m just trying to think it and I find this question distracting.
Yet I am deeply interested in the question of what rhetorical actions might be taken and what events might occur that open possibilities for a group of people. Hopefully this makes some sense and explains some of my bizarre psychology to you. I think, perhaps, that I’m a bit more experimentalist than you are. I tend to be a bit flighty and am happy to follow through on a concept to see where it leads without engaging in all the smoke and mirrors that would demonstrate what it is that warranted that decision in the first place.
I tend to think the critical stance is a kind of neurosis where one is engaging in endless propaeduetics and preparations without getting to the actual work, and that things prove themselves apres coup or after the fact in their results as “what will have been”. So in my view, the question is more, “what does this concept allow me to see and think?” rather than the question “is the concept adequate?” I take it that the inadequacy of a concept will show itself in practice and call for revision as a consequence.

Marx is certainly no psychoanalyst or metaphysician

Malfeasancio Says: May 26th, 2007 at 7:24 pm NO, the psychologizing of Marx, and the de-economizing (de-materializing?) of Marxism are characteristic of trolls; even ones with tenure. The division of labor issue, for one, WAS a problem for Marx, as was commodification, exchange, money/value/price, property, finance, speculation, etc.; thus he does address issues similar to those discussed by Smith and Ricardo; it is the postmods who are misreading and mis-appropriating the text, aestheticizing it, giving it some bizarre Freudian-lacanian gloss. I think Marx is wrong on many things, and his remaining Hegelianisms a real problem: but he does make some definite assertions about economics (and exploitation, really) which are capable of being shown– empirically –false, or contingent. And perhaps true in some situations. He does not doubt that his analysis applies to real, objective conditions.
Marx may not have been a “populist” leftist (the P-word!), but he’s certainly no psychoanalyst or metaphysician—and I think the psychoanalytical tendency is itself a type of anti-materialist viewpoint.
AS far as “moralizing,” I do not think one should assume an attempt to justify an objective entitlement is prima facie mistaken, or really moral. You might not care for the ethical discussions of a Hobbes, Locke or Kant, at least not until the Cheka smashes in your door and arrests you on trumped up charges: at that point you would probably wish that the KBG men knew something about the categorical imperative, if not the US Constitution…
You and Comrade Pepperell sound like you already are in place in some grand bureaucratic hall, making plans for the Peoples, regardless of what they actually want or need (and I think that is postmod’s raison d’etre—justifying a type of secular monarchy. Marx provides his own Leviathan (a rather more sinister one than even Hobbes offered))
Malfeasancio Says: May 26th, 2007 at 8:49 pm Really I think what bothers you is someone who does not sign-off on the shadow ideology of marxist revolution. Economic reform is possible, but many academics don’t appear to desire it. They don’t want to discuss distribution, or the division of labor, or economic entitlement, or say housing, property, agriculture: that is considered plebian or populist, who knows what. The postmods are the anti-materialists, it seems. Chomsky has said some similar things.
Orthodox marxism was empirical, data-based, sociological: Marx recognized some obligation to offer true accounts (or at least plausible accounts) about existing and historical socio-economic conditions. In a sense he ducks the normative issue, but it is still there. So instead of justice, or entitlement, rights, etc, there is exploitation, inefficiency, distribution problems. It is the ideology–when Marx or Engels stray too far from evidence—that is problematic and speculative.
However distasteful economic materialism and empirical research may be to some “leftist” aesthetes, authentic progressives must acknowledge the absurdities of specific business practices, whether petro-business, or agriculture, technology, corporate excess, etc., it seems to me. I’ve yet to see any of the “leftists” in this little circle even mention the commodity market, finance, or oil racket, IT barons, etc.: that’s now considered “green” or populist, or neo-liberal or who knows what.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Marx is a socio-historical economist.

Malfeasancio Says: May 26th, 2007 at 3:46 am You are misreading Rawls: he was closer to left than to right, and arguing for a sort of rational egalitarianism (that’s what sane, rational AGENTS would select, given the right decision matrix), in a rather more precise manner than say Zizek (the Parallax Gap reads about like Lenin’s ad hoc bolshevik rants with a bit of Lacan added: yes the minimal difference man!). It’s a foundation for economic rights, not an apology for neo-liberalism. But whatevs. Every proposition you put forth has a moral ratio attached to it: those who uphold marxism (however obscurely) are given Good button; those who criticize, Bad (or fascist, capitalist, neo-liberal, imperialist, etc.). Or perhaps it’s just Continentalists, good; Anglo-American, bad (vulgar, yada yada). Yet Rawls arguably closer to a sort of Kantian empiricism (in ethical terms) than any postmods you can name.
The contractualists are the economic materialists, without the Hegel ghosts, and yet still holding to the “subject”, without the postmod reifications. OR they simply reject the state or contracts altogether; and that is the bad Hobbes, a few sips of cognac away from Nietzsche in the Genealogy of Morals. But Nietzsche chants are OK; Hobbes chants, schmutz (tho’ Hobbes a far more methodical thinker and scholar than about any German metaphysician, Kant included). Perhaps like, given your “historicity” you might recall politics sans Due Process, sans rights, sans even consensus: you want Hegelian politics, stripped of ANY notion of individual entitlement (or disputation) think of Stalin or the third Reich. In a VERY real sense, that was Hegelian-machiavellianism manifested.
larvalsubjects Says: May 26th, 2007 at 10:37 am You’re missing the point. Marx is not providing a “political theory” in this way or a theory of the “ideal state” such as whether the ideal state is a Platonic republic, monarchy, democracy, etc. This is what I was getting at with my remarks about normativity. Marx is a socio-historical economist. That is, Marx seeks to explain how various types of societal formations result from differing forms of production. For instance, he shows how social form of Feudalism resulted from a particular form of production. The point, then, is that comparing Rawls and Marx is comparing apples and oranges. They’re asking two entirely different types of questions. It’s not a question of “being for” Rawls’ understanding of how society should be organized versus “being for” Marx’s theory of how society should be organized.
Rather, it’s a question of whether Marx and Marxists provide a cogent analysis of how society is organized. The thesis that Rawls is an apologist for neo-liberalist thought would simply be the thesis that a normative theory of the State such as that found in Rawls can only appear under certain conditions of production. That aside, I don’t see how Rawls has ever contributed anything to any actually existing political movement, so I don’t know where you get the idea that he’s contributed so much to leftist thought.
Remarks like this really diminish whatever point it is that you’re trying to make, as they amount to name-calling. You seem to be suggesting that those who are sympathetic to Marx (or postmodernism) are so simply because they have an irrational attachment to these figures because they must have commitments to these figures to belong to certain groups in the world of academia...
larvalsubjects Says: May 26th, 2007 at 4:27 pm Of course his economic generalizations are not necessary truth. Insofar as Marx is a historical thinker, he recognizes that there are different forms that economy takes at different times in history.
I have problems with these things as well, but you’re confusing Marxism with actually existing socialism in the Soviet Union. These are not the same things. You’ll find little, if any, account of how the State should be organized in Marx. This is why I keep suggesting that you’re asking the wrong sorts of questions and do not seem familiar with Marx’s particular form of social and economic analysis. You keep raising normative and ethical questions, rather than asking questions as to why the social emerges in the particular way it does at a particular point in history.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The experience of Aswapati is of a different order of Nirvana. This is something beyond the Buddhist Nirvana

Re: 12: A Downward Look by RY Deshpande on Thu 24 May 2007 06:59 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link Past not-self and self and selflessness—the Unknowable
We have in the Gita a significant term brahma-nirvāņa which, as Sri Aurobindo explains in the Essays, is the extinction in the Brahman, the Vedantic loss of a partial in a perfect being. This state is different from that of supreme peace of a calm self-extinction, śāntim nirvāņa-paramām, which is not the Buddhist's Nirvana in a blissful negation of being. Generally, in these connotations, Nirvana is taken in the sense of total non-attachment and extinction of the ego. It is a state of inner deeper happiness, of peace, the peace of an absolute inactive cessation.
“Sages win Nirvana in the Brahman,” says the Scripture; everything is blown out in it, everything transient and sorrowful. It further says: Brahman-knower is he who has risen into the Brahman-consciousness, brahmavid brahmaņi sthitāh. One who has the deeper inner happiness and the deeper inner ease and repose and the intense inner light, that Yogin becomes the Brahman and reaches self-extinction in the Brahman, brahma-nirvāņam.
The experience of Aswapati in Savitri’s Pursuit of the Unknowable is altogether of a different order of Nirvana, a singular, exceptional experience of the positive kind, that from which can ensue new possibilities. But first let us see what Nirvana is. We may just read the following from Sri Aurobindo: (Letters on Yoga, pp. 46-7)
In orthodox Buddhism it does mean a disintegration, not of the soul—for that does not exist—but of a mental compound or stream of associations or samskāras which we mistake for our self. In illusionist Vedanta it means, not a disintegration but a disappearance of a false and unreal individual self into the one real Self or Brahman; it is the idea and experience of individuality that so disappears and ceases,—we may say a false light that is extinguished (nirvāņa) in the true Light. In spiritual experience it is sometimes the loss of all sense of individuality in a boundless cosmic consciousness; what was the individual remains only as a centre or a channel for the flow of a cosmic consciousness and a cosmic force and action. Or it may be the experience of the loss of individuality in a transcendent being and consciousness in which the sense of cosmos as well as the individual disappears. Or again, it may be in a transcendence which is aware of and supports the cosmic action. But what do we mean by the individual? What we usually call by that name is a natural ego, a device of Nature which holds together her action in the mind and body. This ego has to be extinguished, otherwise there is no complete liberation possible; but the individual self or soul is not this ego. The individual soul is the spiritual being which is sometimes described as an eternal portion of the Divine, but can also be described as the Divine himself supporting his manifestation as the Many. This is the true spiritual individual which appears in its complete truth when we get rid of the ego and our false separative sense of individuality, realise our oneness with the transcendent and cosmic Divine and with all beings. It is this which makes possible the Divine Life. Nirvana is a step towards it; the disappearance of the false separative individuality is a necessary condition for our realising and living in our true eternal being, living divinely in the Divine.
About himself, Sri Aurobindo writes (pp. 49-50):
Now to reach Nirvana was the first radical result of my own yoga. It threw me suddenly into a condition above and without thought, unstained by any mental or vital movement; there was no ego, no real world—only when one looked through the immobile senses, something perceived or bore upon its sheer silence a world of empty forms, materialised shadows without true substance. There was no One or many even, only just absolutely That, featureless, relationless, sheer, indescribable, unthinkable, absolute, yet supremely real and solely real. This was no mental realisation nor something glimpsed somewhere above,—no abstraction,—it was positive, the only positive reality,—although not a spatial physical world, pervading, occupying or rather flooding and drowning this semblance of a physical world, leaving no room or space for any reality but itself, allowing nothing else to seem at all actual, positive or substantial. I cannot say there was anything exhilarating or rapturous in the experience, as it then came to me,—(the ineffable Ananda I had years afterwards),—but what it brought was an inexpressible Peace, a stupendous silence, an infinity of release and freedom. I lived in that Nirvana day and night before it began to admit other things into itself or modify itself at all, and the inner heart of experience, a constant memory of it and its power to return remained until in the end it began to disappear into a greater Superconsciousness from above. But meanwhile realisation added itself to realisation and fused itself with this original experience. At an early stage the aspect of an illusionary world gave place to one in which illusion (footnote: In fact it is not an illusion in the sense of an imposition of something baseless and unreal on the consciousness, but a misinterpretation by the conscious mind and sense and a falsifying misuse of manifested existence) is only a small surface phenomenon with an immense Divine Reality behind it and a supreme Divine Reality above it and an intense Divine Reality in the heart of everything that had seemed at first only a cinematic shape or shadow. And this was no reimprisonment in the senses, no diminution or fall from supreme experience, it came rather as a constant heightening and widening of the Truth; it was the spirit that saw objects, not the senses, and the Peace, the Silence, the freedom in Infinity remained always, with the world or all worlds only as a continuous incident in the timeless eternity of the Divine.
This is something beyond the Buddhist Nirvana and the Adwaitin's Moksha which are, actually, the same thing.
“It corresponds to a realisation in which one does not feel oneself any longer as an individual with such a name or such a form, but an infinite eternal Self spaceless (even when in space), timeless (even when in time).” (p. 62)
Shankara wanted to dismiss the world as an illusion and attain Moksha, Liberation. Buddha would have stepped into Nirvana but, as Amitabha, he refused to do so, Amitabha who is without bound, who is infinite, is full of light and splendour. Through his effort, he created the Pure Land (Japanese: jìngtŭ) or Sukhāvatī, possessing blissfulness. By his intense tapasya, by his forty-eight vows, it has become possible for the follower of the path to be reborn into this land of happiness. Amitabha's body is golden-hued, hiraņya-varņa, his light is the light beyond mind, his brows illumine a hundred worlds, his eyes are oceans without limit, without shores.
What does he assure us? Nirvana, cessation from the cycles of birth and death, from this Samsara full of pain and suffering. But escape brings not the crown.
Sakyamuni, the Buddha of the present Age, tells us that in the past Dharmakar accepted the misery and suffering of the living creature and, by the power of his compassion, established the Pure and Perfect Land. There would dwell the liberated.
But there is something more than that, something absolutely marvellous. In the evening on 20 December1916, after her meditation at 5.30, the Mother receives a communication from Sakyamuni...
How wonderful, the source of love is infinite! “If the eternal truth finds in thee a means of manifesting itself, what dost thou care for all the rest?” The Eternal as the divine Incarnate has willed it and it must be executed. “The mystery of the manifestation seems to thee more terrible and unfathomable than that of the Eternal Cause.” Aswapati goes to the Eternal Cause and unravels the Mystery of the Creation. Tapping that Eternal Cause he has established the New Creation in the Transcendent.
What could we see in these revelations? The following: In spiritual experience it is the loss of all sense of individuality in a cosmic consciousness, or the experience of the loss of individuality in a transcendent being and consciousness, or a transcendence which is aware of and supports the cosmic action. The possibility of the Divine Life, towards which Nirvana is a step, opens out. There is only the positive reality and that is all that matters. That positive reality has been brought out from the Eternal Cause.
The greatness of Aswapati’s pursuing the utter Unknowable is to go beyond all cosmic manifestation, go beyond even the transcendental manifestation, the Manifestation of the Spirit from which in the cosmic deployment arise its own opposites, opposites that too are like itself infinite and powerful, go beyond Sachchidananda, the originator of this vast manifestation. It is thus alone, going beyond Sachchidananda, could the grim opposites be disburdened, removed, dissolved. When that is done, from the knowledge of the Eternal Cause is formed the Seed of Light, the possibility of the New Creation created. That is Aswapati’s Siddhi. RYD

The problem of textual fallacies in Sri Aurobindo's world

Re: Savitri, Surrender and the Void by Rod Hemsell
by rakesh on Wed 23 May 2007 09:17 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link
In Buddhism and Advaita of Shankara there is no existance of soul or psychic being. Everything is either the imagination of the mind due to incessant currents of karmic impressions as in buddhism or and entire illusion as in Shankara's Advaita.
The concept of soul has it origin in the Veda's and its journey by sacrifice to its home in the Self( atman). But it need not stop there it can know the purushhottama( supermind) where it finds its true individuality.
When the mind is silent as I had said before it can be called a void without karmic currents. Someone asked SA if he has realised the Atman. Than SA asked him if he feels the universe is within him and the his body just a point in the infinite. That is the realisation of Atman. Nirvana is the experience of Anandamaya Atman aspect. But the realisation of Atman can be progressive and multidimensional.
by Rod on Fri 25 May 2007 01:49 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link
This kind of textual meandering, which is limitless, and for the most part useless, points directly to the problem of textual fallacies in Sri Aurobindo's world. (By which I mean the world of students and disciples of Sri Aurobindo as well as his teachings, texts, and direct spiritual influence.) It is a kind of legacy for deconstructionists to savor these things I suppose. The first deconstruction here would point to the alleged discrepancies between Self and Soul, Atman and Purusa, etc. as defined textually. One can easily reiterate many textual references and then believe that one has grasped something about Self and Soul. This is the scriptural Sri Aurobindo school.
Then there is the yoga transmission school of the yoga guru Sri Aurobindo. For the latter, there is the goal to experience the void as selfless bliss, as well as simultaneously universal world-bliss, and then perhaps to derive from that realisation a sense of the meaning of the Buddhist practice of compassionate emptiness. Something like this seems to be impled by the previous comment.
Whether this tells us anything about the ontological truth of reality (what is) as opposed to the epistemological, subjective impression, of what is thought or felt, etc., and therefore is a reality of Mind only, is not necessarily known or considered. And so there must follow an alternating exploration between text and experience to determine whether Truth-consciousness, in knowing Self, is also knowing world, force, prakriti, process, time, material reality, etc.
Buddhism is much less inclined to tackle this project than Sri Aurobindo was, and in fact that is his primary project. Therefore, the experience of transformation is privileged over textual interpretation, yoga sadhana (practise) over shastra (scripture). Herein lies, perhaps, the paradoxical trap of religion in this school. Shastra, devotion, practise are necessary aids, but unless they disappear in the truth of experience they easily become ego-projections. Then of course we "know" the truth and we "feel" the divine and we "live" a righteous life of yoga. And we can then prattle endlessly about which plane of atman is next in the hierarchy of interpretation.
Do these reflections constitute a "substratum" for understanding Buddhist truth? They may, if we realize that the experience of the Void of Selfless Bliss requires the annihilation of the ego. After that happens, we may realize that it is also the nature a material world and universe that is the body of sacrifice, the fire of agni.

Manuel de Landa writes from a strange pataphysical world of disjunctions and fluid transitions

Manuel Delanda's theory of life, the universe, and everything by Paul D. Miller a.k.a Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid. 1000 Years of Non-Linear History Manuel Delanda (Zone Press)
"the more consciousness is intellectualized, the more matter is spatialized"
Henri Bergson, "Creative Evolution," 1911
What is history? Theories of the substance and form of history come and go with the frequency of styles and trends - some are flashes across the cultural landscape that show us for a brief moment another light to view the world through, while others remix the ways we view time, instinct, and perceive the warp and weave of the consensual social world around us. Our ideas about continuity are woven from a strange cloth that for better or worse, is pretty much anthropocentric, and the threads that hold it all together are, at best, utterly tenuous.
The way Proust or Tolstoy viewed history - compared to Thucydides or Herodotus, or Hegel and Marx, is vastly different - let's not forget about the 20th century where the works of people as diverse as Joyce or Fernand Braudel, Carolyn Merchant or Sadie Plant, William S. Burroughs and Rupert Sheldrake all share shelf space. For us living in our contemporary hypermediated world of distributed networks and frequency exchanges, these people come to us through the filter of media, a place where all expression has a short shelf life, and at best almost all ideas are phantasms, fading reputations - rumors of an "historical" existence most readers would be hard pressed to really verify. Time itself sometimes seems to be debateable and indeed, it often is.
But where does Western style of history begin, and where, if there is a beginning, does it end? "Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his story, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds...may not be without their glory..." we are told in one of the first accounts of epic history in the West. Back in the 5th century B.C. Herodotus was one of several historians that began the kind of history we all take for granted today - events for him took place as an interwoven account of events, dates, and the interactions of different individuals in a "non-linear" mode - his was a kind of oral history where words were like hypertext, each phrase a reference to countless other references, and so on and so on.
"I prefer to rely on my own knowledge, and to point out who it was in actual fact that first [took action]...then I will proceed with my history, telling the story as I go of small cities of men no less than of great. For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike...." His story began with a declaration of who he was and what he was doing, and ended with a summary of the accounts of the people he had given narrative.
Beginning, middle, and end - all were signposts within a latticework of actions and deeds, all took place within the oral tradition of a culture where things were hybrid, and created to keep a register of the dramas of the past. It wasn't until the rise of different historical methods that Herodotus was "formalized" and ossified. This is where Manuel Delanda's work becomes extremely relevant - it shows us how to look outside the frame.
Back in 1992 Art critic and historian Thomas McEvilley wrote in his classic essay "One Culture of Many Cultures" as part of his larger anthology of writings "Art and Otherness: Crisis in Cultural Identity" that "the visual arts have a lobal social importance today that is quite independent of formalist notions of esthetic presence. A culture's visual tradition embodies the image it has of itself. Cumulatively, and with cross-currents, art draws into visibility from the depths of intuition a culture's sense of its identity and of its value and place in the world. Seen this way, art - or visual expression or whatever we want to call it - encompasses far more than esthetics. There are times when the issue of identity is muted and the esthetic voice speaks loudest. But not today. Right now the issue of identity has come to the foreground both of culture in general and of the visual in particular. This is not a stylistic fad; it involves the deepest meanings of what we call history..."
In a sense, Delanda could be the philosopher of the esthetic and identity issues that McEvilley was engaged with - with the exception that Delanda's work encompasses stuff that leaves human beings far behind. History with a capital "H" in the West has been plagued with problems of a deeply "teleological" nature: the workers paradise, Aquina's city of God, Marx and his gang, etc etc it all seems pretty old hat in a world of ditributed networks and cybernetic modes of production that make almost all human activity seem like faint shadows of the present moment. The density of it all is pretty thick - and the weight of these kinds of viewpoints has distorted almost every aspect of how we view the world around us. "History without agency!! How is such a thing possible!!?" most theorists involved with contemporary debates about culture and contemporary technology would ask.
My reply would simply be that Delanda provides frameworks to view human action within a context of the complete environment that humans inhabit: something most historians, in an echo of the infamous 19th century German historian Leopold von Ranke's credo of history as " wie es eigentlich gewesen" ("simply to show how it really was") reducing history as merely festishisms of facts and documents - the detritus of human action as the singular teleogical narrative (of course, European humans, that is..) within to view the "progress" of the world. What "A Thousand Years" basic premise does is provide a non-anthropcentric view of the developments of the last millenium's "progression" in a "non-teleological" context - the tableau that Delanda want's to depict is a place where "geological, organic, and linguistic materials will all be allowed to 'have their say'." Is history a thought contagion - a kind of memetic shock or dispersion of cultural mores that are relative to each era and perspective of tastes of continuity? It's a difficult question to answer, and there are no straight forward responses to the enquiry.
To look at the topic is to disrupt it with your ideas of what holds consensual reality together, and at best, in our late 20th century post everything mode of existence, you'll have a kaliedoscope perspective. At worst, you won't remember anything at all of what's happened in the last several centuries (this happens a lot in America). Manuel De Landa is a contemporary philosopher of history - but we live in a time where most of the basic tenets of how we look at the world of the past will shape how we can create new forms of thought in the future - this condition leaves him in a strange, nebulous place in todays cultural landscape. His work is extremely cogent, and well thought out, and his new book "One Thousand Years of Non-Linear History" should be a classic following in the steps of Jameson, Fernand Braudel, and the ubiquitous Dynamic duo, Deleuze and Guattari - all of whom have helped pave the way for new approaches to philosophy and culture to interact.
Manuel de Landa writes from a strange pataphysical world of disjunctions and fluid transitions - a milieu where writing about ideas becomes a fluid dialectic switching from steady state to flux and back again in the blink of an eye, or the turn of a sentence. His style of thinking is a like a landscape made ogcrsytalline structres of the world of rocks and lavas, magmas and tectonic plates that dance beneath our feet at every moment. And that doesn't even get to the shifting magnetic polarities of the planet and the solar winds and celestial movements that surround our little third stone from the sun. "One Thousand Years" is kind of like a cognitive labyrinth of false starts and dead ends, like an M.C. Escher painting or even more accurately, like Hieronymous Bosch's carnival tableaux bereft of characters - the mise-en-scene displaces the actors operating within it, and subsumes their identity - a shift in perspective takes place, creating a world where words act as a bridge acorss broken and fractured "times" that exist pretty much simulatneously. Delanda has given an account of an overview of what he calls "historic materialism" and how the basic processes of the full environment we live in have shaped contemporary thought.
I have to say it - writing about Manuel Delanda's work is difficult. It isn't the fact that his work is extremely well researched (it is), or the fact that much of it involves extremely precise investigations into different realms of theoretical approaches to the way we humans live and think in different multiplex contexts that themselves are part question part unanswerable - for lack of a better word - motif. With Manuel Delanda, there's always that sense that one thing leads to another and basically there is no discrete and stable form of inquiry: the question changes and configures the answer which again, reconfigures what was originally asked. And so the loops go on.
Delanda's first book "War in the Age of Intelligent Machines" was an instant classic; it encapsulated what so many different theorists were trying (without much success) to achieve - an overview of our time and the different historical cybernetic developments that created the milieu we live in. Call it morphic resonance, or material convergence, or hermeneutical fusion, yada yada yada, but you get the basic idea: that the "real" of the kind that theorists and philosphers such as Heidegger (of "The Age of the World Picture" essay fame) and a whole cast of people supporting the ideas and extensions of European rationality like Francis Fukuyama, and Frederic Jameson have not only been cripplling and distorting frameworks to view human history from, but have also divorced us from the physical processes of the world of flux and constant change that we are immersed in.
Written from the viewpoint of a cybernetic historian, De Landa's "War in the Age of Intelligent Machines" created a sense of "historian as actor as philosopher:" the history of and relationships between humans and the machines we use to create our cultures were transformed into a continuum where the line dividing the organic from the inorganic blurs, and the end result is something altogether completely hybrid. "One Thousand Years of Nonlinear History" takes up where "War..." left off: with a critique this time, of the material processes embedded in the migrations of not only human cultres, but of the geological, biological, linguistic and memetic systems that have impacted on this planet and its inhabitants over the last thousand years. Teleology, contemporary constructions of identity, frameworks of philosophical investigation - in the flow of time like the old Borges poem
"The Hourglass" says: "all are obliterated, all brought down By the tireless trickle of the endless sand. I do not have to save myself - I too Am a whim of time, that shifty element..."

Baudrillard set the tone that another world is possible

Baudrillard: A Remembrance of Things Unpassed By Paul D. Miller aka Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid. I first met Jean Baudrillard at a conference Sylvere Lottringer of Semiotext(e) organized in Las Vegas several years ago. The idea of the conference was about chance processes. Needless to say, with the Whiskey Casino as the backdrop for the conference, and randomness as the main motif of the situation, the soundtrack of the constant churning of slot machine wheels and pulleys, and the continuous movement of the attendees between speeches and gambling, it all seemed totally appropriate. Baudrillard gave his speech dressed in a gold suit in simulation of Elvis, and I ran my speech through various software processes to turn it into the sound of water. When I look back at the moment, it seems crystal clear that we were at the edge of an aesthetic and philosophical ocean turn in how people put ideas together in the era of hyper media. Since that time, simple things like wireless networks, the ubiquity of the iPod, global media events like 9/11 or the SARS virus, have all brought home how prescient his thought was.
The world knows Baudrillard as the philosopher who gave us a cautionary tale about simulation, and if the events of today – the war in Iraq, the economics of globalization, Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans – have told us that in no uncertain terms, we live in a world with a more and more tenuous grasp of the “reality” underpinning the myths of the present day. In a world where bleak man made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social and environmental developments cannot be denied, his words were a beacon of how we can reason through the myriad ways that we humans have displaced the natural world.
For me as a just graduating student in the early mid 90’s, Baudrillard seemed like a figure who cut through the haze of post-everything American cultural malaise. I studied French literature at a time when it seemed that America was enthralled by the end of the Cold War – my studies were populated with people like Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Althusser, Lacan, bounded by Badiou. Kristeva, Cixous, Irigaray, Wittig… The list goes on but you get the point: these figures are part of a pantheon where, perhaps, one of the common themes is a simple cry for new ways to perceive how the mass media-landscape inadvertently invades and splinters the private mind of the individual.
What Baudrillard did for me was make the world safe for doubt: doubt about the intentions of governments, corporations, ideologies, and yes, people. Like J.G. Ballard or Bruce Sterling, his work hovered between descriptions of the world in present tense and the strange and uncanny networks that hold together “the real.” For him, like the 'simulacrum' following DeBord's 'spectacle' where 'revolution' became synonymous with hyper-consumerism and something everyone did against the name of 'freedom,' but that’s freedom of choice, of course. I don't mean to say anything here, I wonder about the doubting that once swayed the world.
Today, I wrote this piece traveling on a flight between Tokyo and Istanbul, and as I sit here and use a wireless network in the coffee lounge of the Hotel Buyuk Londra, I re-read him as doubting everything – it’s as if Baudrillard says never model a thought about anything unless you can say it to yourself. The thought lingers, and links to a meta-critique: it posits modern thought as withdrawn, proffered as kind of a peripheral speech.
At the birth of the 21st century, at the birth of the new New World, of suicide bombers, insane Presidents, multi-media equipped private armies and fundamentalist militias, his words bear reviewing: Baudrillard – a voice that says the seductions of reality are what we now hold dear. We speak the world. Reform, remix, re-engineer the consent of the Western world. We need this analysis more than ever. Vietnam is now long gone. Flip the script and think: for us children of the late 20th century, memory is a scarce resource. In the rear view mirror - May 68 was almost forty years ago and most of us young people have never thought of burning monks, Chairman Mao, Stalin, or the origins of half of today’s problems.
I think back to an almost innocent moment in the mid 1990’s when Baudrillard with a gold suit, made people remember that the chance processes of the world are what give us joy. With a simple flourish, I think that he set the tone for many young artists, writers, and musicians, to remember a simple thing: that another world is possible. Tokyo/Istanbul 3/15/07

Thinking in meshworks, in nets that extend to other nets

Deleuze/Guattari: Remix Culture, Paul D. Miller Interviews Carlo Simula in Music, Theory, Album/CD/DVD Covers, Remix Culture, Interview, Hip Hop, History, DJ Culture, Criticism Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007 Trackback Image source: Dusty Groove Text source: and November 20, 2005 The following is an interview with Carlo Simula for his book MILLESUONI. OMAGGIO A DELEUZE E GUATTARI (Cronopio Edizioni)
1) You’ve often referred in your interviews to how much contemporary philosophy has influenced your work. Foucault said “Un jour, peut-être, le siècle sera deleuzien”, how much and in which way Deleuze and Guattari influenced you? And what you feel is interesting in their work?
The idea of the “remix” is pretty trendy these days - as usual people tend to “script” over the multi-cultural links: the economics of “re-purposing,” “outsourcing” and above all, of living in an “experience economy” - these are things that fuel African American culture, and it’s active dissemination in all of the diaspora of Afro-Modernity. My take on Deleuze and Guattari is to apply a “logic of the particular” to the concept of contemporary art. Basically it’s to say that software has undermined all of the categories of previous production models, and in turn, molded the “computational models” of how “cultural capital,” as Pierre Bourdieu coined it, mirrors various kinds of production models in a world where “sampling” (mathematical and musical), has become the global language of urban youth culture. Eduoard Glissant, the Afro-Caribbean philosopher/linguist liked to call this “creolization” - I like to call it “the remix.” Philosophy is basically a reflective activity. It always requires a surface to bounce off of. We don’t exist in a cultural vacuum.

Basically I look at Deleuze/Guattari as two figures who act as translators of European philosophy and aesthetics into some kind of exit for people who are concerned with humanism. Think: Frantz Fanon wrote about this as a kind of update on Existentialism - the “gaze” that defines the world today is “brown” - but it is contained in a strange cadence. It’s a visual rhythm that extended the idea of philosophy into spectrums that have yet to be mapped out. European philosophy has usually been totally eurocentric for the last several centuries, and Deleuze and Guattari are the two philosophers who have taken the idea of philosophy past the limits of previous thinkers.
Aristotle created the idea of taxonomy for the West several thousand years ago. Deleuze and Guattari have taught us to move beyond the categories he defined, and have helped create tools for analyzing how complex out mediated lives have become. I think of their concepts like the “Abstract machine,” the “body without organs,” and the “immanent plane” of action/realization as almost beyond the categories of European philosophy. They are humanists who look for meaning beyond the norms. That’s where my music and their thoughts intersect.
Essentially, for me, music is a metaphor, a tool for reflection. We need to think of music as information, not simply as rhythms, but as codes for aesthetic translation between blurred categories that have slowly become more and more obsolete. For me, the Dj metaphor is about thinking around the concept of collage and its place in the everyday world of information, computational modelling, and conceptual art. All of them offer exits from the tired realms of Euro-centric philosophy into some kind of pan humanism. That’s why I like Deleuze and Guattari’s work.
Other figures from the European aesthetic realm like Ludwig Feuerbach (who promoted the idea of “humanism” in his works of the mid 19th century), Spinoza, and Giordano Bruno’s exploration of Semiotics are also influences, but the basic sense of “rhizomatic” thought - thinking in meshworks, in nets that extend to other nets - it’s the driving force of my music and art. I think it’s a great place to start thinking about a philosophy of “the remix.” The “remix” is about certain kinds of polyphony - it’s about making multiple rhythms work together, synchronized, cut, pasted, and collaged.
That’s the real “abstract machine” - cross reference that with James Brown, think Garrett A. Morgan (the African American inventor of the street light - the choreography on every street corner of the global megalopolis), think Duke Ellington with his “Afro-Eurasian Eclipse” jazz modernity, think Albert Murray’s essay “Spyglass Tree”, think Detroit’s underground forerunners, stuff like Drexciya… the list goes on. etc etc

Habermas draws heavily on Mead to develop a theory of social interaction

Edward Berge Says: May 25th, 2007 at 1:33 am From the Postmetaphysical Thinking post:
“Postmetaphysical thinking appears to coincide with the movement away from metaphysical philosophies of reflection of which Hegel is understood to be the final innovator. Hence both Kierkegaard and Marx are seen as paths away from this type of thought and stepping stones on the way to functional sociologies and psychologies that set in motion the procedures of communication theory. Habermas draws heavily on Mead to develop a theory of social interaction that is not dependent upon idealist notions of the self positing of the ego which, upto Fichte, depended upon the I as the original source of consciousness.
In developing Mead’s idea of the social ego Habermas puts forward that consciousness is not a originary act of the ego, but an external force that encroaches inwardly and forms the ego within a set of responses to stimuli from the other, wherein the I through being refered to by another can gain knowledge of himself in seeing how a second actor organises his interlocutionary demands. In developing communication theory, Habermas is, in our terms, developing a theory of society that is not reducible to a simple totality but has social complexity as its ground i.e. a number of plural language games, different orders of power, different structures of politics in play at anyone time. He is thus concerned with developing a theory of individuation within a discourse of social differentiation.”

Emergent systems for a robust relational ontology

A recent post over at Larval Subjects calls for a more fully developed account of agency...It is admittedly difficult to call Whitehead a materialist — I would be interested, however, to see how his system works if we cut away what he (unfortunately) named “God” — but both Nancy and Zizek at least profess to be materialists. There seem to be no a priori grounds for excluding them, unless the secret handshake to get into the materialist club is to implicitly believe in an outmoded model of the universe as a gigantic billiards table. Posted by Adam Filed in Butler, Whitehead, Zizek, Lacan, philosophy, Nancy, politics 2 Responses to ““Underdeveloped””
larvalsubjects Says: May 24th, 2007 at 4:35 pm Nice post, Adam. I’m still in the process of developing my thoughts on these issues, so I’m not entirely certain what I’m aiming at either...
Just to clarify, I certainly don’t advocate a “billiard ball” model of materialism, and I’ve expended a great deal of effort trying to think the possibility of things such as emergent systems that would allow for a more nuanced, forgiving, and resolutely anti-reductivist material. Consequently, when I evoke the term materialism, I am not making any sort of call for a reduction to physics, neurology, biology, chemistry, etc. I think there is something irreducible in emergent systems and that they have to be approached in their own terms. For instance, I take it that a social system cannot be reduced to the human individuals that compose it, nor do I feel that language can be reduced to brain neurology.
On the one hand, then, I use the term “materialism” as a synonym for an ontology of immanence, such that there are no agencies outside the world or universe, not subject to history, time, development, and so on. On the other hand, this desire to avoid vulgar (and I think facile) reductivism is what attracts me to relational thinkers such as Hegel, Deleuze, Whitehead, and so on. I don’t know what to make of Whitehead’s God talk and whether his references to God are similar to those of Spinoza. This isn’t really what interests me in Whitehead. Rather, I am instead interested in Whitehead’s accounts of process, relations, emergence, and his critique of misplaced concreteness and subject/predicate based metaphysics.
I suppose you’re right that it is easy to claim that an account of agency is underdeveloped. Given your remarks in this post, it looks like I’m not doing a very good job articulating what I’m trying to get at, so I appreciate the nudge you’re giving me here as a prod to better formulate my worries. On the one hand, I am responding to what I see as reductivist tendencies in some variants of continental theory that reduce the agent to a prop for ideology, a formation of power, and so on. On the other hand, my difficulty with Zizek is not the claim that there is something creative in agency that cannot be deduced from what I called “scene” in the post you’re responding to here– I would be committed to that thesis as well –but rather that he seems to reduce the subject to a void or nothing, leaving no room for the cultivation of a self and identity.
From your descriptions– and from what I gather about her more recent work –Butler would here come a bit closer to what I’m looking for. Also, some elements of the late Foucault, beginning with the second volume of the history of sexuality where we get all that stuff about folding, get closer to what I’m looking for. Here, also, I think Badiou’s subject of a truth procedure fairs better than Zizek as we do get a subject that progressively determines and creates itself as a result of its procedure (something like what Whitehead would call a “superject”). I have next to no familiarity with Nancy, so I’ll have to look into some of the references you provide here when I get the chance.
As an aside, I have no deep commitments to Whitehead. I’ve only just begun reading him again after many years as a result of Shaviro’s promptings (if you haven’t gotten the chance, his posts are well worth the read). I find his thought very beautiful and fascinating, but I can’t say I know where I stand with respect to it. I tend to go through phases where I spend a good deal of time reading any thinker that develops a robust relational ontology. Thus, for instance, I’ve spent a good deal of time with Hegel’s Logic, Peirce’s various semiotic writings (his collected works sit atop my shelf), Marx’s Capital, Luhmann’s systems theory, Deleuze’s various works, Levi-Strauss, Heidegger’s middle priod works, Foucault’s work, Lacan, Derrida’s earlier works, etc., etc., etc. The red thread that runs throughout all these orientations is a relational approach to the phenomena they’re investigating. Basically, then, I’ve struggled to find a vocabulary in which I might express a vague intuition I have about the nature of being.
Adam Says: May 24th, 2007 at 4:48 pm The remarks about billiards weren’t directed specifically toward you — I was probably thinking of a comment thread over at Kugelmass’s where he seemed to be equating materialism with reductionism. But he is not alone in such sentiments! In general, anyone advocating a non-reductivist materialism seems to have an uphill battle in store — constantly facing things like “But that isn’t really materialist, is it?”
Steven Shaviro Says: May 24th, 2007 at 9:10 pm A great post, and involving issues that I am trying to work through. Whitehead is relevant, here, as you suggest, because he accepts scientific accounts, and rejects Cartesian dualism, and yet tries to include a margin for “agency” at the same time. He does this through a kind of double causality, in that every event/occasion/entity has both an “efficient cause” (which is scientific or mechanistic causality) and a “final cause” (which is how the entity “subjectively” responds to the elements that it causally inherits from the past).
Despite the Aristotelian terminology, Whitehead’s argument is closer, I think, to the double causality (freedom/determination) in Kant. But Whitehead, as I have been trying to work out in my own writing, is “naturalizing” Kant’s appeal to the noumenal in a weird way. Though he uses anthropomorphic terminology, he is very serious about insisting that the margin of indeterminacy which is where he would locate “agency” as the manner in which an entity “entertains” or responds to its causal inheritance applies just as much to an electron, a rock, or a tree, as it does to a human being. The structure, with its margin for indeterminacy or agency, is the same in all these cases; it is just that, for a rock or a tree, the amount of activity in this margin is “negligable,” whereas for a human being it is much greater.
As for Whitehead’s notion of God — that is opening an entire other can of worms. I find Whitehead’s God quite interesting, and I think there are structural reasons he needs it in his system — and part of this has to do with guaranteeing what I am calling the margin of agency — but I am still struggling to work all this out, so I don’t have a coherent sense yet of how it might affect the argument.
Brad Johnson Says: May 24th, 2007 at 10:56 pm I’m struck by how your reflections here on materialism resonate with my own posts of late about creativity & love. I’m struck even more by the fact that your reflections are far and away more clear than mine.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Culture as the entire gamut of our life

Sri Aurobindo and the Crisis of Contemporary Culture Sachidananda Mohanty Ritam Volume 4 Issue 2 February 2007 A Journal of Material and Spiritual Researches in Auroville: Sri Aurobindo International Institute for Educational Research.
Sri Aurobindo’s place in the intellectual history of modern India is yet to be determined. The relevance of his cultural and political vision remains unassessed. His critics oppose him by not reading his vast body of writings; and his followers have made a cult out of him. The sage of Pondicherry is more than a poet and a mystic philosopher. In this essay, I shall try and show the relevance of Sri Aurobindo’s political vision to the crisis of contemporary culture. There are six major areas where we see the crisis of contemporary culture:
1. The tyranny of the State Idea.
2. The crisis of the Nation State.
3. The conflict over language and ethnicity.
4. The challenges of the emerging internationalism.
5. The problem of identity politics in a multicultural society
6. The question of self-determination.
Each of these is related to the other, and yet separately, each poses a challenge to our thinking. What insights does Sri Aurobindo offer for the resolution of these crises? The threat of a looming disaster is what seems to define the human condition today. Sri Aurobindo captures aptly this crisis in The Life Divine:
At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way… Man has created a system of civilization, which has become too big for his limited mental capacity… a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites.1
What, then are the manifestations of this evolutionary crisis in the contemporary world? If we define culture as the entire gamut of our life, and not just a creative expression of a select elite, then we will notice the crisis of contemporary culture in the six areas outlined...3:46 PM