Self-Constraints III

Self-Constraints III
Notes on Non-Philosophy

Philosophy is the despair of loops, and one can observe this in very way it develops and reproduces itself. There is an incessant recursivity not only in the texts it produces but in its manner of propagation through institutions and norms of validation. It is the necessity of re-ference in general, reference to a precedent in thought or to a forbearer in thinking. Or, equally, reference to oneself as thinker or as a “fold” in thought and being.

Philosophy gives itself its own tradition and its context just as the self gives itself itself. As a system, it considers these “givens” to be absolute or as “really existing” in an unavoidable way. Already this presupposition ensnares one in a loop. Thus deconstruction, for example, can become a double strategy: on the one hand, undoing the dualities and contraries given by the tradition as inescapable, on the other hand, rewriting or restylizing those concepts in a way that sets sail for a different horizon, but one nonetheless forever partially shaped by the inescapable tradition (thematized under the priority, the precedence of the “trace” or of existence in general). Perhaps one would like to get outside the loop, but because it is assumed to be transcendentally given, as binding/unbinding, that outside can only continue to refer to that given – to the apparent present world, to the signifying chain, to the differential play of traces, to philosophical positions, etc. The despair is of that prison, the prison of proof and verification where “relevant thinking” is defined by its ability to translate the untranslateable, transmit the untransmittable, make the impossible possible, and so on. These are aporias philosophy can never exit and does not want to exit: without assuming these loops its very activity becomes inconsistent. (See a previous post on autocatalytic thinking for more on that.)

What philosophy assumes (even deconstruction) is an ipseity whose evidence is in whatever way incontrovertible. The critique of the “metaphysics of presence” really changes nothing about this; it only emphasizes that there is something about the self or the subject that is irreducible to presence, irreducible to its inscription in the signifying chain, irreducible to its role or place in the world, irreducible to its voice and appearance, irreducible perhaps even to its body, etc. Philosophy begins in Plato with a project of preparing the soul to be liberated upon leaving its body and, in a sense, it only modulates that theme, however much it comes to critique the soul-idea (witness in Agamben its return, proving with such elegance how little has changed). Contemporary philosophy reinvests the self by describing it as never-pre-constituted, as in-process, as sliding under, as vanishing mediator, as structured by a void or by trauma or a cut, as engaged in care of itself or in the construction of truths – as dying, in a process of release, and so on. Non-philosophy doesn’t take the time to survey all these options, but makes a global diagnosis under the heading of “double transcendence” and ultimately equates philosophy with this system of self centered around a self-relation that must always pass through some “third” dialectically or contradictorily, successfully (happiness or affirmation of the other) or stuck constantly in an impasse (melancholy or mourning the other).

Agamben elegantly addresses this irreducible “excess of self” (without psychology, which philosophy always smartly resists). The ‘third’ instance, wherein the self as “a relation relating itself to itself” is established, is not God (Kierkegaard) or Beyng (Heidegger), but the irredeemable world meant to be deactivated: through the undoing of its apparatuses, through its profanation in play, through its “virtuous” gesture, the self auto-constitutes a form-of-life (soul) that can never be supposed as pre-existing or pre-constituted; it comes about only through the use of bodies, languages, etc., as use-of-oneself. The following quote exhibits well the structure double transcendence:

The subject — like the author, like the life of the infamous man— is not something that can be directly attained as a substantial reality present in some place; on the contrary, it is what results from the encounter and from the hand-to-hand confrontation with the apparatuses in which it has been put — and has put itself — into play. For writing (any writing, not only the writing ‘ of the chancellors of the archive of infamy) is an apparatus too, and the history of human beings is perhaps nothing other than the hand-to-hand confrontation with the apparatuses they have produced — above all with language. And just as the author must remain unexpressed in the work while still attesting, in precisely this way, to his own irreducible presence, so must subjectivity show itself and increase its resistance at the point where its apparatuses capture it and put it into play. A subjectivity is produced where the living being, encountering language and putting itself into play in language without reserve, exhibits in a gesture the impossibility of its being reduced to this gesture. All the rest is psychology, and nowhere in psychology do we encounter anything like an ethical subject, a form of life. (Profanations, p. 72)

For non-philosophy the key operation with regard to transcendence is “abasement” and Laruelle is careful to insist that abasement is not a suppression, a negation, or an annihilation. There is no denial of the fact that empirically there are loops, repetitions, habits, patterns, and more broadly, no denial of the empirical fact that we experience ourselves as transcendent entities constituted not only by these loops but as constitutive of them (“loop makers”). What is abased, however, is the priority of these determinations from transcendence. “The abasement of double transcendence, passing from its doublet-form to its simple form, is distinguished from every excess of transcendence; it is a depotentialization.” This is a move toward the generic. To begin from radical immanence is to suspend the presupposed or assumed givenness of all the transcendentals, reducing them to their simple status as phenomena given-in-immanence, in a sense stripped of their background. This is not about finding some empty space where all the traces would be gotten rid of. It is not a strategy of meditation and clearing. Peace (from philosophy) is not added on. It is not an operation or an achievement, but rather a perspective geared toward a use of the philosophical materials and thus of the self (form-of-experience) and toward seeing can be done with the aporias rather than continuing to turn them over themselves: a practice of self in its simple form, not as a transcendence constantly redoubling over itself but as each time fallen-in-immanence, determined from immanence rather than by whatever is assumed to be given.

The radical commencement implied here is generic or transindividual without being intersubjective — it doesn’t return upon itself, it doesn’t pick up where it left off even where it seems to. In other words, the loops are of a broken symmetry with immanence. The loop-maker becomes a simple maker that loops not back over “itself” but over materials, from One-time-immanence, determining the loop as non-repetitive or non-recursive of self and thus as not really a loop at all. Or again, the chain is broken a priori without requiring the operation of a subject. Immanence means the impossibilization of every loop, i.e., the impossibilization of the loop-maker – but not in a way that would orient the loop-maker towards its own death, to the impossibility of its existence as its ownmost possibility, however this model is modulated – nor in the way of the barred self that, indicating an inherent lack in all systems, would be pushed about by the obscurity of the Other’s desire – nor by the way of a erotism (Bataille) or depersonalization along a line of flight (Deleuze). On the other hand, nothing about self-expression is off-limits per se; they are even recognized to be inevitable precisely as philosophy, as form-of-experience, as a mixture of a transcendental-empirical and a real-transcendental, but these materials or “givens” (Given-without-givenness) are seen-in-One, as a priori undivided and generic. Two consequences:

  1. The self has its self-relation (double transcendence) undermined in-immanence. This does not happen “just once” as if it were a decision or a mystical dogma, but each time one time (an immanent impossibilization). One is tempted to call this the “instant” and we could recognize many philosophical avatars here: experiencing oneself eternal (Spinoza), the Augenblick at the portal of two eternities (Heidegger/Nietzsche), the instant of my death or of the gift of death (Blanchot/Derrida), moment of ecstasy or realization, etc. Non-philosophy recognizes in these solutions the continued priority of the present as the locus of appearing or life, as the locus then of the self in the World; this priority obtains even when the full presence of the present is somehow deferred, suspended, questioned by the Other, etc.  Non-philosophy responds with a distance of immanence: not of the present with itself (“time is out of joint”) (the self…), but a more radical distance of the non-relation of the Real to the present, from the “distance” of the Last Instance (not death, not the “end of self,” etc…). The experience of this instant qua self as present is seen-in-One and thus as a sort of hallucination, a contingent phenomenal given or system of knowledge which can be given a different use, this time no longer in the name of a thinker or a signature, but in defense of radical immanence “itself,” which never comes from the present but comes each time one time “under” it.
  2. The subject is then seen as a clone of-the-World, an objective appearance no longer believed but dealt with as a Stranger-existing-subject, a sort of hallucination of-the-Last-Instance.

What is observed here is the non-relation of the subject to the Real, the non-reciprocity of all these transcendental productions to the Real, and how in the last instance the Real under-determines the subject, the loops and productions, not so much stripping them of transcendence but forcing them simply as fallen in-immanence. One may have capacities, one may have knowledge, but where or from when does one practice them? To where are these transcendences and subjectivities pro-jected? Non-philosophy answers: from immanence, the ject from Nowhere and Nowhen, and it seeks to draw consequences from its under-determining influence or effect (messianity).

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2 Responses to Self-Constraints III

  1. Rex Styzens says:

    I have yet to understand Nancy’s “transimmanence,” but the clarity of your exposition cannot but help me by way of something to which I can compare his intentions. It was only about 3 years ago that I was given to realize that Kant’s assumption of subjectivity was a finesse. That’s now worlds away.

    • tmlavenz says:

      Thanks in part to your comment I’m working on a longer piece on the relation between non-philosophy’s radical immanence and Nancy’s “transimmanence.” I’m wondering where you would point me to in his corpus on this topic, or if there are certain passages or sections that stand out as highly relevant to you on the topic (i.e., even if transimmanence isn’t explicitly mentioned)?

      So far, I notice he brings it up in The Sense of the World, but most of the time he tries to think of existence as “neither immanence, nor transcendence,” but a being-to/toward (sense, the world, all existents). He also has an essay “Imm/Trans” where he sort of dismisses the discussion (the subject “necessarily escapes”) – his argument being that from the perspective of death (?) immanence is only rot (inert matter), and transcendence only ghost (apparent spirit). The reason for this is clear: left alone, immanence for Nancy only means a self-enclosed-on-itself, which he quickly relates to substance, subsistance, or the “subject” (meaning in this case, the individual walled up in its identity, etc.) – a point that could only collapse in on itself, destroy itself by believing it could stay in itself, could avoid the touch of exteriority, etc. Whereas transcendence left alone only designates the “act,” the crossing of subsistence to what is exterior or other: the act of transcendence itself. But for Nancy of course the existant “is” the act of being, act of exiting-itself, or ex-position – it is neither rot nor ghost, but life-in-death, existence each time at the edge of death (ex-). I quote:

      “Death, mere death removes any speculation on “immanence” and “transcendence:’ In death, substance or act disappear. Simultaneously, however, death forms the only passage of subsistence outside itself. Subsistence rids itself of the envelope that maintains it subsisting (thus subsistence rids itself of that under which it subsisted) and develops into ek-sistence, or into “sistence” outside itself. Into insistence, so to speak. Either within or through death (for death is but a slim barrier) the “sisting” insists far from any sub-sistence or con-sistence.”

      The differend here between Nancy and non-philosophy is clearly already played out in the original definitions. For Nancy, immanence can only mean the very thing he constantly wants to dismantle: the self that would refuse its contact with exteriority, that would refuse passage or force itself, in denial of the “with,” and so on. That self has an imperative to transcend or cross out of itself because of its a priori exposedness. Existence is posed exposed, exposed prior to positioning but also in a position of incessant ex-posure. This is about an existent thrown into the world, without any subsistence or consistency “on its own” save in the “to” of its being-to-the-world: the touch it makes and receives and that it is (as body, as existent, as being-in-the-world). Laruelle does not respect the heritage of the ontological difference in the same way. Above all, his starting point is not the existent, not the “someone,” but of course rather the radical One, immanent in spite of all transcendence; the indivisible One “before” it is divided up into a multiplicity; the One that is indifferent to, or unaffected by, beings and Being; the One to which thinking does not relate at all; etc. Non-philosophy does not begin with an, “I think, I sense, I exist,” nor does it see everything play out in a present of a world, but takes a stance in-One-in-the-last-instance. Much like Nancy, this is exteriority as immanent, an a priori exteriority if you will, but not an outside “in relation to” an existent. In other words, the outside is not what a formerly-enclosed self moves into, or opens itself up to, or lets itself be affected by. Thus there is not, as in Nancy, a need to constantly combat or refute false interpretations of immanence as interiority, selfhood, identity, subsistence, revising them with notions more in accord with “pure differance” (passage, sense, spacing, opening, etc.). Radical immanence is exteriority (to) itself, one is tempted to say, so long as this doesn’t mean, “it is exterior to us.” Non-philosophy comes at things from their in-One Identity, a theoretical “vision” or “pragmatic” that depotentializes or brings down the existent/world couplet and the third thing, sense, that makes the two communicate. The difference could however be as slight as this: for Nancy, someone-with-someone (in the world), for non-philosophy, One-in-One.

      See also:
      http://marklewistaylor.net/blog/philosophical-note-on-jean-luc-nancys-transimmanence/
      http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/rt/printerFriendly/36/44
      https://web.duke.edu/polygraph/nancy.html

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