Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chreia or Khreiai

"Chreia" (from the Greek chreiodes, "useful") is "a brief reminiscence referring to some person in a pithy form for the purpose of edification."

The chreia (χρεία or chria) was, in antiquity and the Byzantine Empire, both a genre of literature and one of the progymnasmata.

An elementary exercise, or progymnasmata, in which the speaker or writer comments briefly on a famous event or saying.

Preliminary rhetorical exercises that introduce students to basic rhetorical concepts and strategies.

In classical rhetorical training, the progymnasmata were "structured so that the student moved from strict imitation to a more artistic melding of the often disparate concerns of speaker, subject, and audience" (Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, 1996).

The Exercises

This list of 14 exercises is drawn from the progymnasmata handbook written by Aphthonius of Antioch, a fourth century rhetorician.

3-anecdote (chreia)
4-proverb (maxim)
10-comparison (syncrisis)
11-characterization (impersonation or ethopoeia)
12-description (ekphrasis)
13-thesis (theme)
14-defend/attack a law (deliberation)
h/t - Nicrap

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Disassociated Consumerist Socialism

Through multivalent meanings and juxtaposition, Nietzsche asks, as Deleuze writes, for the reader to “find the force that gives a new sense to what I say, and hang the text upon it.” (145). The frame is transgressed through attention to where it is hung - that is, the text acknowledges the exterior and the way in which its arguments, its sense, depends on the context in which it is read. The author does not have to be killed by criticism - he commits suicide, or relinquishes subjectivity while still living. What is transmitted, then, is not a static logic or codification of the world, but “a current of energy,” (145) a theoretical force, a way of interpreting the world that is fully contingent on the world that the text exists in. To textually debunk the fascists that claim Nietzsche as their own is not relevant, for no truth of the text should be claimed. Rather, the “revolutionary force” (146) of the text - which can be manifest not only in contextualization, but also in the “notion of style as politics” (the crossing of the frame and attention drawn to it) - must be sought out, from outside of the text. The revolutionary force is a place to hang Nietzsche, a place to let his text play, rather than something that should be drawn out of his work through textual criticism. The “illegitimate interpretations” of Nietzsche (in quotes for more reasons than authorly attribution) are those that “spring from the spirit of seriousness, the spirit of gravity... the cult of interiority.” (147). Humor and irony can destroy this cult, as schizophrenic laughter is forever outward-reaching. It runs counter to “the whole tragedy of interiority.” (147). “One cannot help but laugh when the codes are confounded.”
-Mal Ahern, "Nomad Thought"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Attention Perverts!

Once More Unto the Breach!

I never told the buried gold
Upon the hill -- that lies --
I saw the sun -- his plunder done
Crouch low to guard his prize.

He stood as near
As stood you here --
A pace had been between --
Did but a snake bisect the brake
My life had forfeit been.

That was a wondrous booty --
I hope 'twas honest gained.
Those were the fairest ingots
That ever kissed the spade!

Whether to keep the secret --
Whether to reveal --
Whether as I ponder
Kidd will sudden sail --

Could a shrewd advise me
We might e'en divide --
Should a shrewd betray me --
Atropos decide!
- Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 18, 2014

Divine Kenosis

The crucial problem is: how to think the link between the two "alienations," the one of the modern man from God (who is reduced to an unknowable In-itself, absent from the world subjected to mechanical laws), the other of God from Himself (in Christ, incarnation) – they are THE SAME, although not symmetrically, but as subject and object. In order for (human) subjectivity to emerge out of the substantial personality of the human animal, cutting links with it and positing itself as the I=I dispossessed of all substantial content, as the self-relating negativity of an empty singularity, God himself, the universal Substance, has to "humiliate" himself, to fall into its own creation, to "objectivize" himself, to appear as a singular miserable human individual in all its abjection, i.e., abandoned by God. The distance of man from God is thus the distance of God from Himself:
The suffering of God and the suffering of human subjectivity deprived of God must be analysed as the recto and verso of the same event. There is a fundamental relationship between divine kenosis and the tendency of modern reason to posit a beyond which remains inaccessible. The Encyclopaedia makes this relation visible by presenting the Death of God at once as the Passion of the Son who ‘dies in the pain of negativity’ and the human feeling that we can know nothing of God. [12]
This double kenosis is what the standard Marxist critique of religion as the self-alienation of humanity misses: "modern philosophy would not have its own subject if God’s sacrifice had not occurred." [13] For the subjectivity to emerge – not as a mere epiphenomenon of the global substantial ontological order, but as essential to Substance itself -, the split, negativity, particularization, self-alienation, must be posited as something that takes place in the very heart of the divine Substance, i.e., the move from Substance to Subject must occur within God himself. In short, man’s alienation from God (the fact that God appears to him as an inaccessible In-itself, as a pure transcendent Beyond) must coincide with the alienation of God from himself (whose most poignant expression is, of course, Christ’s "Father, father, why have you forsaken me?" on the cross): finite human "consciousness only represents God because God re-presents itself; consciousness is only at a distance from God because God distances himself from himself. [14]
- Slavoj Zizek, "Only a Suffering God Can Save Us" quoting Catherine Malabou, "The Future of Hegel"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Freedom's Price

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
--Abraham Lincoln, 2nd Inaugural Address

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Cynic's "Distance"

A common notion of psychoanalysis, of course, makes it almost an epitome of cynicism as an interpretative attitude: does psychoanalytic interpretation not involve in its very essence the act of discerning "lower" motivations (sexual lust, unacknowledged aggressivity) behind the apparently "noble" gestures of spiritual elevation of the beloved, of heroic self-sacrifice, etc.? Perhaps, however, this notion is somewhat too slick; perhaps the original enigma that psychoanalysis endeavours to explain is exactly the opposite: how can the effective behaviour of a person who professes his/her freedom from "prejudices" and "moralistic constraints" bear witness to inumerable inner impediments, unavowed prohibitions, etc.? Why does a person free to "enjoy life" engage in systematic "pursuit of unhappiness", methodically organizing his/her failures? What's in it for him/her, what perverse libidinal profit?

Another way to define the trap into which cynicism gets caught is via the difference between the public Law and its obscene underside, the unwritten superego rules: cynicism mocks the public Law from the position of its obscene underside which, consequently, it leaves intact. A personal experience revealed to me this inherent obscenity of Power in a most distastefully-enjoyable way. In the 70s, I did my (obligatory) army service in the old Yugoslav People's Army, in small barracks with no proper medical facilities. In a room which also served as sleeping quarters for a private trained as a medical assistant, once a week a doctor from the nearby military hospital held his consulting hours. On the frame of the large mirror above the wash-basin in this room, the soldier had stuck a couple of postcards of half-naked girls — a standard resource for masturbation in those pre- pornography times, to be sure. When the doctor was paying us his weekly visit, all of us who had reported for medical examination were seated on a long bench alongside the wall opposite the wash-basin and were then examined in turn. So, one day while I was also waiting to be examined, it was the turn of a young, half-illiterate soldier who complained of pains in his penis (which, of course, was in itself sufficient to trigger obscene giggles from all of us, the doctor included): the skin on its head was too tight, so he was unable to draw it back normally. The doctor ordered him to pull down his trousers and demonstrate his trouble; the soldier did so and the skin slid down the head smoothly, though the soldier was quick to add that his trouble occurred only during erection. The doctor then said: "OK, then masturbate, get an erection, so that we can check it!" Deeply embarrassed and red in the face, the soldier began to masturbate in front of all of us but, of course, failed to produce an erection; the doctor then took one of the postcards of half-naked girls from the mirror, held it close to the soldier's head and started to shout at him: "Look! What breasts, what a cunt! Masturbate! How is it that you don't get the erection? What kind of a man are you! Go on, masturbate!" All of us in the room, including the doctor himself, accompanied the spectacle with obscene laughter; the unfortunate soldier himself soon joined us with an embarrassed giggle, exchanging looks of solidarity with us while continuing to masturbate… This scene brought about in me an experience of quasi-epiphany: in nuce, there was everything in it, the entire dispositive of Power — the uncanny mixture of imposed enjoyment and humiliating exercise of Power, the agency of Power which shouts severe orders, but simultaneously shares with us, his subordinates, obscene laughter bearing witness to a deep solidarity…

One could also say that this scene renders the symptom of Power: the grotesque excess by means of which, in a unique short-circuit, attitudes which are officially opposed and mutually exclusive reveal their uncanny complicity, where the solemn agent of Power suddenly starts to wink at us across the table in a gesture of obscene solidarity, letting us know that the thing (i.e. his orders) is not to be taken too seriously and thereby consolidating his power. The aim of the "critique of ideology", of the analysis of an ideological edifice, is to extract this symptomal kernel which the official, public ideological text simultaneously disavows and needs for its undisturbed functioning.
- Slavoj Zizek, "From Joyce the Symptom to the Symptom of Power"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Post-Modern Arts of Seduction

A similar tension between rights and prohibitions determines heterosexual seduction in our politically correct times. Or, to put it differently, there is no seduction which cannot at some point be construed as intrusion or harassment because there will always be a point when one has to expose oneself and ‘make a pass’. But, of course, seduction doesn’t involve incorrect harassment throughout. When you make a pass, you expose yourself to the Other (the potential partner), and her reaction will determine whether what you just did was harassment or a successful act of seduction. There is no way to tell in advance what her response will be (which is why assertive women often despise ‘weak’ men, who fear to take the necessary risk). This holds even more in our pc times: the pc prohibitions are rules which, in one way or another, are to be violated in the seduction process. Isn’t the seducer’s art to accomplish the violation in such a way that, afterwards, by its acceptance, any suggestion of harassment has disappeared?
- Slavoj Zizek, "You May"

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Boing Boing Time?

Following on from this point, the second way that differential presence presents itself on the level of experience is as that which makes us think, or as Deleuze sometimes puts it, as that which ‘forces thought’. For Deleuze, thought is not the product of language but of what he calls a ‘fundamental encounter’ (Deleuze 1994: 139). Something in the world, he argues
forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter. What is encountered may be Socrates, a temple or a demon. It may be grasped in a range of affective tones: wonder, love, hatred, suffering. In whichever tone, its primary characteristic is that it can only be sensed. In this sense it is opposed to recognition (139 – first emphasis original, second emphasis added).
Objects of recognition, Deleuze argues, ‘do not disturb thought’ insofar as they provide thought with ‘an image of itself’; they reaffirm for thought, in other words, what it already thinks it knows. Differential presence, in contrast, names an encounter which ‘defies consciousness, recognition and representation’ (Bogue 1989: 78) but nevertheless presents itself to sensation. In "What is Philosophy?" Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the philosopher then condenses these sensations or intensities in the creation of concepts, whereas the artistis assigned the role of making perceptible ‘the imperceptible forces that populate the world, affect us, and make us become’ (1994: 182). In neither case is this about translating the encounter into a representation which would stabilise the disruptive force of difference into something more palatable for consciousness. Rather, making art or doing philosophy involves a process of capture that repeats the difference of the encounter in a manner that, in turn, forces new thoughts upon an audience. And so the repetition of difference goes on.
Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, "Deleuze and differential presence in performance"

"Objects of recognition, Deleuze argues, ‘do not disturb thought’ insofar as they provide thought with ‘an image of itself’; they reaffirm for thought, in other words, what it already thinks it knows."
- Deleuze must have never watched a naked girl on a trampoline before... ;)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Seeking No Jouissance, but My Own

Although there is no intersubjectivity proper in drive, drive nonetheless involves its own mode of relating to otherness: desire addresses itself to the symbolic big Other, it seeks active recognition from it, while drive addresses itself to the silence in the Other - the Other is here reduced to a silent witness, to a mute presence which endorses the subject's jouissance by way of emitting a silent sign of acknowledgment, a "Yes!" to drive. In order to exemplify this status of the Other in drive, let's not be afraid to reach for the lowest of the low - Lassie Comes Back. At the very end of the film, the dog, though wounded and tired, nonetheless proceeds along the streets of the small town towards the school, in order to be there when her master's (the young boy's) classes end. On her way, she passes the workshop of the local blacksmith; when the blacksmith, an old, bearded man, catches sight of the blood-stained animal approaching the school exactly on time, he nods silently, in agreement.... This silent nod is a Yes! to the Real of the drive, to the dog's uncompromising drive to "always return to her place" (see Lacan's definition of the Real as "that which always returns to its place"). And, perhaps, therein resides also the last gesture of the psychoanalyst recognizing the conclusion of the cure: in such a silent Yes!, in the pure gesture of acknowledging that the analysand has traversed her/his fantasy, that she/he has reached beyond the enigma of Che vuoi?, and turned into a being of drive....

Or, to put it in yet another way: desire as the desire of the Other remains within the domain of transference and the (big) Other; the ultimate experience here is that of anxiety, i.e. the experience of the opaque trauma of the Other's desire, of what does the Other want from me (Che vuoi?). Drive, on the contrary, is outside transference and the reference to the Other (for that reason, the dissolution of transference is tantamount to the passage from desire to drive: there is no desire without transference). At the level of desire, the encounter with the Real occurs as the encounter of the Other's desire; at the level of drive, the Real is directly drive itself. Or, to put it in yet another way: desire is the desire of the Other, while drive is never the drive of the Other. With respect to literary references, this move "beyond desire" (to drive) is also a move beyond Kafka: the work of Kafka probably gives body to the experience of Che vuoi?, to the enigma of the impenetrable desire of the Other, at its most extreme, while drive involves the suspension of the dimension of the Other's desire - the Other who says "Yes!" to drive is not the Other of Che vuoi?.

Another way to formulate the opposition between desire and drive is to say that desire stands in relation to interpretation as drive does in relation to sublimation: the fact that sublimation is, as a rule, mentioned apropos of drive, not of desire (Freud himself never speaks of the "sublimation of desire"), while, on the other hand, one also never speaks of the "interpretation of drive" but always links interpretation to desire, bears witness to a profound theoretical necessity. The title of Lacan's seminar from 1958-59 ("Desire and its interpretation") is to be taken as a direct assertion of their ultimate identity: desire coincides with its own interpretation, i.e. when the subject endeavors to interpret (its or, originally, the Other's) desire and never finds the ultimate point of reference, when it forever slides from one reading to another, this very desperate attempt to arrive at "what one really wants," is desire itself. (Or, to elaborate: insofar as the coordinates of desire are provided by the "fundamental fantasy," and insofar as this fantasy emerges as an attempt to provide an answer to the enigma of Che vuoi?, of the Other's desire, in short: as the interpretation of this desire, of what the Other "effectively wants from me," desire as such is sustained by interpretation.) In a strictly homologous way, drive is its sublimation: there is no "direct" drive which is afterwards sublimated, since the "nonsublimated drive" is simply the biological instinct: "drive" designates the moment when an instinct is "sublimated" - cut off from its natural point of satisfaction and attached to an object which acts as the stand-in for the impossible Thing - and, as such, is condemned to the repetitive movement of encircling - never directly "swallowing" - its object. (This difference between instinct and drive also overlaps with the difference between the two French terms for knowledge, connaissance and savoir: instinct is an innate knowledge which tells the animal organism how to act (how to copulate, where to fly in winter, etc.), while humans lack such a knowledge and therefore have to rely on symbolic tradition - see, for example, Longinus' Daphnis and Chloe, in which the two lovers must resort to the knowledge of older, experienced people so as to learn how to copulate: relying on their instinct, or imitating animals, doesn't help much....)

We can see, now, how we are to conceive the opposition between desire and drive. Insofar as desire remains our horizon, our position ultimately amounts to a kind of Levinasian openness to the enigma of the Other, to the imponderable mystery of the Other's desire. In clear contrast to this attitude of respect for the Other in its transcendence, drive introduces radical immanence: desire is open to the transcendence of the Other, while drive is "closed," absolutely immanent. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, desire and drive are to be contrasted as are subject and object: there is a subject of desire and an object of drive. In desire, the subject longs for the (lost) object, whereas in drive, the subject makes herself an object (the scopic drive, for example, involves an attitude of se faire voire, of "making-oneself-seen," not simply of wanting to see). Perhaps this is how we are to read Schelling's notion of the highest freedom as the state in which activity and passivity, being-active and being-acted-upon, harmoniously overlap: man reaches his acme when he turns his very subjectivity into the Predicate of an ever higher Power (in the mathematical sense of the term), i.e. when he, as it were, yields to the Other, "depersonalizes" his most intense activity and performs it as if some other, higher Power is acting through him, using him as its medium - like the mystical experience of Love, or like an artist who, in the highest frenzy of creativity, experiences himself as a medium through which some more substantial, impersonal Power expresses itself. The crucial point is to distinguish this position from that of the pervert, who also undergoes a kind of "subjective destitution" and posits himself as the object-cause of the Other's desire (see the case of the Stalinist Communist who conceives himself as the pure object-instrument of the realization of the Necessity of History). For the pervert, the big Other exists, while the subject at the end of the psychoanalytic process assumes the nonexistence of the big Other. In short, the Other for whom the subject "makes herself... (seen, heard, active)" has no independent existence and ultimately relies on the subject herself - in this precise sense, the subject who makes herself the Other's object-cause becomes her own cause.
-Slavoj Zizek, "From Desire to Drive: Why Lacan is Not Lacaniano"

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sinning in Absentia

Behaving indecently in public, he said "I wish it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly."
- Diogenes Laërtius

There was an old zany who lived in a tub;
He had so many fleabites
He didn't know where to rub.
He kept looking for an honest man
Said "I'm gonna find him if I can"
If i could meet Diogenes today,
This is what i'd say:
Hop out of your tub

Oh, Diogenes!
Find a man who's honest!
Oh, Diogenes!
Wrap him up for me
Oh, Diogenes!
Find a man who's stolid-solid
Hook that fish if he's in the sea
Hunt him! Trail him!
Catch him! Nail him!
If he is free
Have you got your stick?
Have you got your lantern?
Can you do the trick
And produce him, please!
Catch that fellow!
Ring that bell,
Oh, Diogenes

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making a Difference

Yeah I am on the fence about
Nearly everything I've seen
And I have felt the fire
Put out with too much gasoline
And we're all strangers passing through
Places one afternoon
And life is but a vision
In a window that we're peeking thorough
A hopeless conversation
With a man who says he cares a lot
It's a hopeless confrontation
About who might throw a punch or not
But we are all transgressors
We're all sinners
We're all astronauts
So if you're beating death
Then raise your hand
And shut up if you're not