Dark Deleuze: disconnectivist theory

I’ve started working through Dark Deleuze by Andrew Culp, currently of the rhetoric department at Whitman college and, like myself, a former college policy debater. Against the emphasis on joy and affirmation perceived in Deleuze studies today, Culp undertakes some ‘philosophical buggery’ of his own and refashions Deleuze into a thinker of destruction and negativity. It’s a very original and fascinating project, and has been very thought-provoking in context of some reading on Badiou that I’ve been doing lately (but more on that another day). Here, I’d like to get some words on the page regarding what Culp terms “connectivism.”

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Afro-pessimism’s different world

I think early 2016 Levi Bryant was awesome. He had kind of slowed down from the rapid-fire rate of posts of earlier years, down to one or two a month a few times in 2015, and then picked up the pace a bit near the end of the year. I think this post really represented some kind of turning point; although I guess his point was that the turn was there all along, and he just needed a few explicit statements to make it obvious to folks like me.

A post from a few months ago, “The Topology of Historical Time,” draws up a concept of multiple welts or worlds, worlds which are physically and chronologically contemporary and overlapping, but phenomenologically or existentially differing. Bryant exemplifies this by referencing the moment in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman professes a total, incommensurable divergence in being between himself and a homeless man he meets in an alley: “You and I have nothing in common, we come from entirely different worlds.  I can’t even understand you.”  Bateman and the homeless man obviously live on the same planet and do so at the same time; spatially, they are quite proximate to one another, relative to the rest of human (or non-human) existence. What Bateman is speaking to is the way a world is lived or experienced — beyond its mere self-sufficient existence, a world is a world for something. 

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“Informational capitalism”: miscellaneous notes

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Harry Halpin and Elijah Sparrow titled “The origins and future of informational capitalism,” which I found out about, ironically, via Facebook. I had a couple thoughts, which I’ll try to put together in an organized fashion below.

Halpin and Sparrow share concerns over the endpoint of what Marx calls the “real subsumption of labor”: the seemingly inevitable moment when we, the workers of the world, are all made redundant by technocapitalist machines capable of doing our work more efficiently than us, and for free. The two mock think pieces for asking questions like, “What will we do with our free time when machines make employment unnecessary?,” doubting the political viability of something like a minimum income to fill in for when we all lose our jobs to machines. This allegedly unviable solution is, of course, exactly the goal of the interesting but a bit passe movement of accelerationism: re-engage modernity and technology to steer it to utopian ends, while seizing power of political institutions to guarantee basic social reforms that cushion the fall for the formerly-working class.

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History, Life, and Uses for Nietzsche

History

Nietzsche seems to mean by history something like memory or remembrance. In section 1 of his essay, he refers to animals as “unhistorical” things on account of the fact that they are continually forgetting what they have to say, so they ultimately say nothing at all (60-61). History is, like animal “rumination,” a re-digestion of past events (62). However, historical sense is present not only in individuals, but in peoples, cultures, and governments as well, meaning it can occur above individual memories to bolster or weaken cultural and national identities as well (62). History is a means of broadening one’s horizons; the ignorant person who knows little of history has a very narrow (albeit pleasant) perspective on the world, but an over-historical person may grow ill from the continual flux of his historical horizons (63). This, however, is really a definition of history in terms of how we study or relate to it. As for history itself, Nietzsche suggests that it is a series of negations (contra Hegelian dialectical resolution) or struggles “against history” (106). In other words, history develops according to those who momentarily step outside of history, who act “counter to [their] time” (60).

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Nietzsche, Cohen, and Positivism

Jonathan Cohen interprets Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics in Human, All-Too-Human as operating within the tenets of a “positivist” scientific methodology (Cohen 103), in which truths are universal, objective, and foundational, and are preferable to non-truths or tautologies. For Cohen, Nietzsche’s argument can be divided into ‘possible alternative explanations’ and ‘origins,’ which work in tandem to both decenter metaphysical claims to truth and provide positive justifications to be averse to metaphysics. Cohen concludes that this cannot effectively challenge metaphysics because it concedes the possibility of positive truth (as ascertained by science, either by the free spirit or the metaphysician) and does not adequately develop a perspectivist epistemology that could confront metaphysics’ claims to logical wholeness. My contention is that Cohen’s reading of Nietzsche’s science too quickly discards a few important nuances that distinguish it from pure positivism, such that Cohen fails to see how this Nietzschean science is designed precisely to handle the concerns Cohen puts forward.

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Zarathustra and Going Under

I am interested in the ways in which TSZ’s fictional form, in which most narration is spoken through the voice of the titular character, Zarathustra, is perhaps designed to escape the trappings of the heady moralism which Nietzsche railed so vigorously against. I contend that TSZ is an experiment undertaken by Nietzsche in which important parts of his philosophy are demonstrated actively, and not merely described or suggested normally. In particular, the character of Zarathustra is produced as a ‘friend’ or an ‘other’ which displaces the notions of personal identity and Platonic spirit that Nietzsche wishes to criticize.

For Zarathustra, the self and the ego are distinct entities, the latter being an invention of the former (and the former being a representation of ‘the body’).[i] The body is a container for drives (referred to at one point by Zarathustra as a “ball of snakes”) for whom ‘reason’ is merely one of many instruments, rather than an overarching, guiding power or principle. The Platonic notion of the ‘soul’ is an error, assuming some concept of selfhood separate from (and usually above, metaphysically speaking) the immanence of the body. This soul is constructed alongside and for the same reason as an ‘afterworld’ is: to escape bodily “suffering and incapacity.”[ii] Consequently, the body is separated from the soul, the former being rendered contemptible and inferior. This separation engenders a kind of arrogance, demonstrated in German idealism’s adoption of a transcendent capacity for reason above and beyond the material world. It also begets a resentful moralism which judges “doers,” not “deeds,” which Zarathustra calls “madness.”[iii]

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Evil Derrida and Holy Baudrillard

I once read someone express the opinion that Baudrillard is just “evil Derrida.” I think they’re right – and I think Conor Cunningham is “holy Baudrillard.”

I think the critique of nihilism expressed in Cunningham’s “holocaust/ice cream cone” section [1] is a pretty basic expression of the impetus that I first detected in Derrida and in the differentiation Baudrillard marks between difference and radical alterity.

All of them appear concerned with the possibility of radical alterity – the value (if we can call it value – Baudrillard) or significance (again, Baudrillard shakes his head) or importance (?) of mystery or enigma. This was how I originally understood Derrida – “difference” was sort of a pathway to this element of otherness, because it suggested the trace or slippage that inhered in every structural claim – i.e. that the other exceeded the structural calculations of the self. The term “condition of possibility” resonates here – as if nothing would matter if there wasn’t something more. I think that basic claim appears in Derrida (“the trace” or “the supplement” as only possible foundation to meaning), in Baudrillard (radical alterity/”reversibility”/”seduction”?? – as the sort of radical position), and in Cunningham (God/transcendence as ‘the meaning of it all’). This ethical concept provides the ultimate impact to their arguments.

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