Bi-furcations of whatever sort – nature versus spirit, mind versus body, ultimate reality versus appearance, etc. – have their usage at the level of entrance into metaphysical ‘issues’ and as heuristics making it easier to investigate, discuss, and perhaps solve them, alone and together. Complication and nuance of the bifurcations, perhaps leading to zones of non-duality, come after contemplation of the basic dilemma, whereupon the either/or nature of the duality can be superseded.

Given how widespread these bi-furcation dilemmas are in human history, it is unlikely that they are just fabrications of this or that philosopher who happened to get stumped. When they receive canonical definition, for example by folks like Descartes and the mind-body problem, the drawback is that thought can then suffer from adherence to that definition as though it were an authority. Mental effort is then exerted to comprehend the canonical definition, rather than employing it for the sake of inner metaphysical discovery. Such definitions can provide coordinates to help orient in the conceptual territory, and so they can allow progress toward refutation, reformulation, and perhaps resolution of the dilemma, but only if enough time and contemplation is taken for them to become more than ‘intellectual’ exercises driven by the desire to be ‘right’.

In my experience, it is best to gain exposure to as many definitions of the dilemma as possible, both the canonical and the marginal, the obsessive and the dismissive, and to receive them all without bias, valuing whatever is unique about each model. That way contemplation avoids sticking to one specific model or definition and does not fall into the error of thinking that one specific model or conclusion – a merely external, discursive solution – will somehow resolve the issue. Rather, exposure to a multiplicity of models allows one to be experientially open to a creative transformation of the problem itself and especially its articulation. This can only happen once one feels in some way unbound from the dilemma as stated, once the original coordinates are well underway to reconfiguration. In other words, once a sort of non-discursive ‘resolution’ has been perceived or understood, through extended contemplation, thought can then freely enter back into the discourse without feeling detrimentally entangled by its many historical and conceptual referents. This is perhaps a resolution in ‘simplicity’; but it is also the grounding of thought in the non-temporal actuality that motivates the problem to begin with and which has been occluded by its contingent, imperfect articulation.

From such simplicity and grounding, a greater degree of conceptual and expressive innovation can take place; and one can do so playfully, perspicaciously, ‘indifferently’. This is not to detract from the importance of the operation, however, since those who earnestly undertake it often become innovators in the field, having transcended it enough towards actuality that they are able to play upon it differently and perhaps even rewrite the rules. It goes without saying that this ‘rewrite’ and its results are ever an invitation to future participants in the field to exert themselves similarly in the direction of inner metaphysical experience and simplicity in expressive freedom.

The emotion to such a procedure is, manifestly, joy: the pleasure of participating in the actuality of God. Such is not belabored by merely rationalist distinctions, by canonical grinding of gears, or by any need to reference tradition or gain authority from it. For now the articulation of the dilemma has gained the boldness to stand in the bifurcation without angst as a catalyst for novel future investigations. Its intention now derives not from the ‘imposition of view’, but from love: love of the contemplation and love for those who are still fruitfully animated by the bi-furcation dilemmas, those who have realized that these are necessary for the progression of speculative thought. This is the stance of a ‘loving circumstantialist’ who addresses each individual context of utterance with care, tied to none of them except to the extent that it is exactly those contexts which are to be worked with creatively, for the sake of being metaphysically unbound.

See more:
Descent to Higher Ground
Nihilism and the Absolute
Run-on Sentence

doig, peter - blotter-1993

Peter Doig, Blotter, 1993

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Agamben’s Philosophy

One of key statements of philosophy last century came through the mouth of Heidegger (though it was obviously not merely his statement): “Higher than actuality stands possibility.” The statement overturns a long-standing bias that favors of ‘what is there’, ‘what is actual’, what is present, for the sake of ‘the possible’, what ‘may be’. This bias is very much in line with common sense: generally, we value what is really there over what only might be there; what we can put our hands on over what seems mere thought and imagination. The blueprint is not as accomplished, not as real, as the completed building, etc. To say that possibility [Möglichkeit] stands higher than actuality [Wirklichkeit] marks a watershed moment where this bias – and the entire world based on it – enters into a crisis.

Another key statement of modern thought came through the mouth of Rimbaud: “Je est un autre,” I is an other. I view this as the motto for all the efforts to rethink individuality, subjectivity, selfhood, and so on, that have since been undertaken. It stands for how the self is not self-sufficient, not a being closed in on itself, not a substance; how it is in relation, at risk, constituted by forces beyond its conscious power; how perhaps the individual “is not” at all, is possibility, potentiality (and so on).

So, Agamben comes in highly situated within a philosophical and poetic tradition that he is very ambitiously trying to respond to in the entirety of its concerns. Among others, two of the primary axes of concern are “possibility is higher than actuality” and “the I is other” (taken to the extreme of “autrement qu’etre”). These two great over-turning and philosophically ‘revolutionary’ statements force a crisis to occur (as much as they register a crisis long prepared) in Western thought/society. Agamben’s big ambition is to bring these crises to bear on all the fundamental areas of Western thought – ontology, law, judgment, art, language, politics. With an eye to many others who also tried to deal with these consequences, he brings many threads together into a weave that is “uniquely his own.” I can only highly a few concepts: Continue reading

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For the Love of Thought

Confusion in contemporary discourse about thinking: we ‘think too much’. Inclination to turn off the mind, escape. Importance of distinguishing distraction from meditation, annihilation of mind from clarification of mind. Krishnamurti: cessation of imagistic thought leads to awakening of intelligence. Not exactly ‘wisdom’. Definitely not in the style of soundbite, meme leading to cliché. Though perhaps all this useable for living a life, getting on. But not necessarily a life that thinks; thus not what it potentially could be.

Spontaneous reaction against intellectualism, abstraction, conceptualization, and so on. But the latter confused with expert discourse, specialists working for university or industry, ‘big word’ people talking down to ‘ordinary’ people. Fault of intellectuals is their inability to listen and speak the other’s language. Also fault of education, teaching to tests and ‘right answers’, less to critical, emotional, creative thinking and development of powers of expression.

In fact, a general prohibition on thinking reigns. Primarily in the mode of distraction, divertissement, idle talk. Desires produced to divert. Satisfaction of those desires become imperative. But no desire for truth. However, everyone has that desire, as is clear whenever there’s an opening for thoughtful conversation. The opening often closes quickly, due to discomfort, unless there’s trust and spaciousness. Unclear what to ‘do’ with thought, since it often asks question for which no ready-made answer exists. And perhaps no ready-made question.

Questioning often stops, or is satisfied, by prevailing interpretation. Often one that is endorsed by establishment, institution, party, Church. This produces homogeneity in thought, staleness. Expression takes on a mechanical nature. It becomes predictable and steady, which is what the anxious mind seeks. However, it is only a temporary respite. Anxiety returns wherever the clear action of thought has not pierced it. Anxiety, sometimes manifest as boredom, is the sign of what must be pushed through. Badiou:

All courage amounts to passing through there where previously it was not visible that anyone could find a passage… Ethical courage amounts to the force to traverse anxiety, since this means nothing else but the capacity to consider oneself null.

Desire for ‘truth’, when it exists today, however, usually orients around wish to know the facts. Less common: truth as active production of knowledges that did not formerly exist and that do not reach closure. Such production takes place in a “void,” can be unbearable. Thought bears with the strength of questions no authority can satisfactorily answer. Thus its anguish of ‘no answer’. Also is freedom, possibility. Facts are important, but the love of thought cannot content itself with them. Thinking exceeds the sphere of what is. Thought “means” nothing yet. It reaches into the Not-Yet and “learns to live.”

December 4, 2018

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