Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Inglorious Humanists

I just ran across this today in Zizek, and thought it would add to the pondering of the mystical Quentin Tarantino. Zizek explaining why "Sade is the symptom of Kant." There's a "paradoxical reversal," so don't be startled.

"Lacan's key result of his reading of Kant is that Kant's unconditional moral Law is (one of) the reading(s) of pure desire, so that desire and the Law are one and the same thing. In his 'Kant with Sade,' Lacan does not try to make the usual 'reductionist' point that every ethical act, pure and disinterested as it may appear, is always grounded in some 'pathological' motivation...; the focus of Lacan's interest, rather, resides in the paradoxical reversal by means of which desire itself (i.e. acting upon one's desire, not compromising it) can no longer be grounded in any "pathological" interests or motivations, and thus meets the criteria of the Kantian ethical act. so that 'following one's desire' overlaps with 'doing one's duty.'

So "Inglorious Basterds" is self-aware wish-fulfillment, an alternate history where instead of the Allies winning the war, Jews/women (and one poor white dude and one black dude) won it. It is kind of a way of reinscribing the apex of American moral supremacy for the 21st century as a transparent fiction, but a fiction with a positive ethical cast, which is totally an interesting project. It's basically what makes revolutions okay, regard and pogroms not okay. But then there's the specter of Israel (and our constant legalistic meddling), and their massive civilian displacement, repression, and killing. directed nominally against people who blow stuff up in the name of their land.

I'm inclined to be impressed at that statement, and at lots of nuances about the movie-- like the Nazi casually comparing King Kong to the black experience in America. In my isolationist mood, though, I still have some wish to see the imaginary fantasy of colonial liberation meet up with some limit. My appreciation of Funny Games is due to my own distaste for "modernity" (hopefully from a less problematic place than Drudkh), in which the space opened up between individuals becomes a space for evil, in which the acquisition of land or property (a ubiquitous but not explicit part of the movie) is the transparent fiction, the pretext for pursuing power/duty.

I'm watching a show with ecological architect> geniuses, one of whom said, "So they're not making a> building, they're making a process, that's in> flux...> kind of like the world." Just earlier, he had said> something was "an unpredictable system... kind of> like> life."> > This one UT professor did a project with the Yaquis,> which admittedly seems thoroughly worthwhile, the> Yaquis love having toilets-- but somehow they're> just> changing the universe. This is exactly what I'm> trying to talk about. Officially designated> speakers> are able to invest and create social capital> through being self-refective on their obsession with> moralized formalism. But toilets are good.> > Oh, now they're comparing a local Houston ghetto> (Austin?) to the Yaqui place. Then they cleaned an> alley. I mean-- why is it that regular people can't> just do this? I think it's about access to a> technique of speech, a thoroughly abstract gesture. > Yet it always has to be grounded in some version of> priveleged actuality, to which they have elected> access. I know, I reek of ressentiment.> > I still need to eat less, again.> > I like everything you're saying (wimpy, yes). I> like> that you're willing to provide the proper kind of> nonperversion. Particularly the insights on> abstraction. And yes, medievalism is problematic,> as> Reinhold Niebuhr constantly points out. He is a> fine> Kantian representative.> >But, more than Lewis, I think Kant is moreinterested in extinguishing> that> which Zizek/Lacan call "the sutainable Other." Did> I> say "sustainable?" I meant "Gingundus." Anyway,Kant is the savior from all outer laws.> > Bataille also criticized Tibetans, though Zizek> calls> him "premodern."> > On the doctors thing. Okay, scrutinizer of> discourse,> yes, > "doctors" have been around a long time. But the> word> stayed the same, whiile changing "wizards" to> "scientists" maybe still isn't a big deal. But thenagain,> things> are SO different with the way doctors wield power> now, in a way> that they never have, if even by sheer numbers. Roman doctors were not Senators, to say the least, Ihave the impression.And> psychological is different from biological (a point> worth making-- I just don't know that people have> either not enough or way too much affection for> psychology, and frequently are willing to infer> brain> trauma if someone is drifting slightly from median> discourse. Which is a good thing to have some kind> of> limit around, but maybe not in quite that way.> > "Speech is action"-- I'm maybe saying it's at some> angle to Zen, more like speech being not a fog of> confusion but rather a crystal lens onto the> winningly-delineated scene. Speech, by organizing> ideas in public, can create a future of courteous> melancholy. But then there's the kind of thing that> begins as a bid or a brainstorm or a business ploy> or> a grant application or a gift, and then takes on> this> life as an inscribed missile of directed activity.> > Are you a Derridean neometaphysician? Do you think> that the empty center presents possibilities for> radical alterity? I certainly think people should> continue to weat attractive and delightful garments.> > That's sort of Catholic. > > It depends on what you think happens to content now> maybe. Is it annihilated? To me, it seems speech,> "like other things," gets shunted into a system of> consequences and interpersonal inferences-- its> content is deferred, in a sense, but, as time> passes,> though, it has to continue to exist. > > I keep trying to use inelegant shorthand to refer to> the strange fiefdoms of material power people have> through learning-- which is now such an abstract> process, peole can learn in a million different> contexts, all the time, using language. Language is> coextensive wth civilization. Dead or never-alive,> like hair. Which brings up the technology issue--> the> other ubik-quitous place that ideas are habituallydirectly instrumentally> applied.> > I say it's people that have less power. Everyday> people are not worthy to speak real material> language-- though everyone is constantly trying to> convince each other of their authority, it's an area> of thorough discomfort. While people are materiallybetter> off> than ever, there are more miserable people now than> ever before no matter how you're counting.> > Wait, maybe it's words (parole) that don't have> power.> It's somehow the person and the speech as belonging> to that individual that are in the bottom spot-- it> is> either acting on the world (if he is sane and> knowing)> or he is acted upon (if he is pathological, or just> uneducated (Kantian inner/outer subjects?).> > I say (in my understanding) Kant brackets things (I> can do it too, see?) like numenal deity type speech,> off from everything else, unconditional versus but> coexistent with conditional (science) knowledge. > Lewis doesn't, and mixes everything up in hisessays, coming off as somewhat> unappetizing in some ways, but also quixotically> endearingly nonpsychological. He and Bataille areboth masochistic backward-looking thrill-seekers.> > Thanks for spending so much time with me-- I hope> I'm> not a pest. I like your son very much,> PS: I got a brand new free copy of Far From theMadding Crwowd. I'm inordinaely delighted.> ---

Noah Berlatsky wrote:> > > I'm not sure we're disagreeing because I'm not> sure> > I follow every point > > you're making.> > > > Insanity isn't necessarily biological; it can be> > psychological, too, which > > isn't exactly the same thing. It's less heinous> in> > some ways (it's not > > evil), but it's more overwhelming -- heresy> presumed> > that the individual is > > in control of what they're saying. Insanity> > presumes that the speech, or > > discourse, is more powerful than the speaker. The> > person isn't responsible; > > the discourse has overwhelmed them. But it's> still> > the discourse itself -- > > it's form -- which matters, not the content.> > > > I don't know if pre-enlightenment was really more> > democratic, or even > > better, necessarily. But it's helpful to look at> > just because it defines > > our own problems for us. Hard to get a grip on> > what's going on without an > > other to refer to.> > > > I really don't think there's much point in> > separating off Kant and C.S. > > Lewis. I think they're really coming from much> the> > same place; the real > > difference is that Lewis is a better writer and> > maybe a less clear > > thinker.... which does have some implications for> > their relationship to > > language, I guess....> > > > >From: Albert Stabler dreaming> > >Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2006 14:15:13 -0700 (PDT)> > >> > >You're irrefutably right about the> heresy/insanity> > thing. But isn't > > >insanity more heinous, really, because of being> > biological rather than a > > >free decison? That's the whole thing about> freedom> > of speech not being > > >actually free, since you aren't allowed to mean> > anything. There's some > > >kind of shift-- placing a particular value on> > language with language may > > >always be kind of iffy. It's really more about> > logic and language and > > >reality all coming to occupy different channels.> > >> > > Since college I've always had the vision of> the> > religious versus the > > >psychological intermediary, in which there's> > something more profoundly > > >"democratic" in the old way evertyone understands> > that everything comes > > >from someplace unknowable. Of course in that> > medeival utopia there's still > > >hierarchy (to the max), but only in things> worldly.> > When you get a doctor > > >who can name your internal functions, language> has> > multiplied and split > > >apaprt and gained authority over matter itself. > > C.S. Lewis, as an educated > > >polymath throwback, tries to inhabit the role of> a> > scholar who can, like > > >Paley, infer God from a pig's eyeball. Kant and> > Lacan are on the same > > >page, dealing with the split in language, Lewis> > tries to ignore it, but you > > >can see why, as a retro renaissance man, he wants> > to believe tht you can > > >still speak that way. But the language he has to> > work with is the message > > >of pragmatism. Speech is supposed to be action. > > Which is very not-Zen, > > >but endearingly klunky perhaps.> > > It's a good moment of involuntary religious> > self-awareness, not > > >disappearing into the reified woodwork..> > >> > > The language has more authority than the> people> > who think they can use > > >it. That's what I mean.> > >> > >Noah Berlatsky wrote:> > > I was thinking about what you were saying re:> > post enlightenment,> > >literalism, loss of metaphorical language in> terms> > of religion, etc. I'm> > >not sure I agree with you (if I understand you.)> It> > seems to me that> > >post-enlightenment, the fate of language has been> > to become more, not less,> > >metaphorical. Metaphysical statements used to be> > seen as literal truths;> > >thus, the characteristic crime of heresy. As> > rationalism took over,> > >reasonable language was seen as separated from> > metaphysics; thus allowing> > >freedom of speech, and replacing heresy (lying> > about the metaphysical) with> > >insanity (confusing the metaphysical with> reality.)> > In this context, it> > >seems to me that Lacan and C.S. Lewis are oddly,> > more or less on the same> > >side; both separate reason and the metaphysical> —> > Lacan explicitly> > >separates language and reality, while Lewis (or> > Kant) subordinates> > >metaphysics to reason. It really seems like> > capitalism relies not on a> > >greater power for language, but rather on a> > dissipation of language's power> > >-- essentially, capitalism really privileges> doing> > over saying (which is > > >how> > >it jibes with Zen, I guess — though I'm still> not> > convinced that the> > >outcome is quite the same. I mean, was Tito a big> > Zen enthusiast?)> > >> > >Maybe that makes sense. Who knows....> > >> > > >

From: Albert Stabler> > > >To: Noah Berlatsky> > > >Subject: Re: have I reached my potential?> > > >Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006 03:54:27 -0700 (PDT)> > > >> > > >Yeah no... there's an earlier moment where> > Michael J.> > > >Fox puts Van Halen in his Walkman, puts> > headphones on> > > >Crispin Glover, dresses up in his fallout suit,> > and> > > >plays it, stopping and telling his "dad" that> his> > name> > > >is Darth Vader. That part is the awesome minor> > > >prequel to the famous solo/impotence moment.

Jean-Francois Lyotard is the most consumnate of allthe postmodern post-structuralists-- all universalreified things are false, all particularmicro-communities shoudl freely express theirindividual languages. Neoclassical economists are clearly humanists. Letindividuals make free choices in a market structurereflecting common usefulness. Marx is less clearly ahumanist. People act (consciously or unconsciously,it doesn't matter) in their class roles, sometimes intheir class interests, but essentially theirproduction defines them, not their preferences andbeliefs. You could definitely point out that modernity andhumanism, in my definitions, are somewhat at odds. Marx is certainly a modernist, as is Freud-- but asdisciples of scientistic mysticism, neither one reallyseems to believe in the potential or interiortiy ofindividuals. Unlike Jeremy Bentham. If you watch people sometimes,they learn to watch themselves all the time, Shulamith Firestone, on the other hand, despisededucation and all legalistic forms of social control. What they had in common was a generalized sense ofgender semi-equality.You could compare Lewis and Bentham, since they bothbelieved in animal rights, But there's not a wholelot more there. Lewis and Freud, ironically enough,share a similar fascination with childhood and theirrational, a belief in essential gender, and adistrust of most people's ability to comprehend orgovern themselves. Lewis also rightly distrusts theprofessional oligopoly of psychology, and Freudiansrightly distrust the mytho-heroic powers Lewis, in hisKantian moments, gives to mankind. But they bothreact to the excesses and oversights of theEnlightenment by attempting to reinvent transcendence.This is not to say that they don't have some drasticdifferences. Or that C.S Lewis wouldn't prefertalking to Orwell, a rabid humanist, over any feministwho ever lived.This is really taking up a lot of time. I hope thisis something other than racquetball to you.---

Noah Berlatsky wrote:> > I don't even know who Lyotard is, unless you're> referring to the gym attire.> > You think Lewis believed that the modern individual> is fabricated? In what sense? I think Lewis, like> most Kantians, had a fairly universal sense of what> an individual is. Nor would he have believed that> the modern individual is somehow better or worse> than other historical individuals (different, yes;> worse, no.) > > I'm not sure that humanism and rationalism are quite> the same kettle of fish. Are economists humanists? > Behavioral scientists? I guess if you're arguing> that a belief in human reason is the same as> humanism; I generally take humanism these days to> mean a sense that human nature is universal and> lovable, though. If human reason is the standard,> though, I don't know how you can argue that> Firestone isn't a humanist — she's a Marxist and a> believer in the ability of science to recreate> social truths. She's Jeremy Bentham, basically. > >

Post-structuralist does not mean> anti-structuralist.> Thomas Aquinas was certainly> among the first> humanists, and would probably have> been unimpressed> with my manhandling of equivocal> terminology. Free> will, the pluralistic coexistence> of language regimes,> and the particularity of> individul experiences was a> big deal for him, as it> was for Lyotard.>> Derrida argued with Descartes for> being insufficiently> precise with his terms.> Tirelessly tracing back> statements to their> assumptions and castrating their> ideological> underpinnings is entirely in the tradition> of> rational disputation. Feel free to explain to me>> how that is not the case. "Justice is the>> undeconstructible condition that makes> deconstruction> possible." Sounds like Kantian> ethics to me.>> Foucault is another matter. For me,> he makes> reterritorialization possible, by getting> away from> ideas and individuals and turning toward> history and> objects.>> Reterritorialization is not> about forgetting or> purging humanism. But the> possibilities created by> Christianity, all the> contradictions Christ embodies,> have resulted in a> ruthless and rationalized> civilizational pride that> He and his earlier> interlocutors would deplore.>> I> would never argue that Lewis isn't a humanist in>> some capacity. He loved Plato (though more than>> Aristotle, I think), but he also believed animals> had> a moral character (which Aquinas did not). The> modern> individual is not gendered or created, it> is> instrumental and fabricated, and Lewis stood> against> that, as have various justice-minded> Christians and> non-Chriistians of the modern era.>>> Isolationism Now!>> ---

Noah Berlatsky wrote:

If you>>> talked about Lewis and Firestone too that'd be> cool.>>>> Ah, I hadn't realized that> deconstructionism was now>> humanism. I'm not sure I> entirely buy it, though -->> nor necessarily the> idea that Lewis isn't a humanist>> in some sense (I> mean, the first humanists were>> Christians too...)> And seeing Firestone as someone>> who reconstitutes> gender seems bizarre, since she>> seems to want to> abolish gender distinctions>> altogether. But> perhaps I can wait for your>> argument and all will> be explained....>>>> I don't think Serrano is> arguing that they don't>> have some connection;> maybe more that they're not>> determinative of each> other and can vary in many>> ways. For instance, a> person could see herself as a>> woman, be attracted> to other women, and have many>> gender hallmarks of> maleness (she could dress like a>> man, work on> cars, be large and hairy, etc.) Or any>> other> variations

My contention is that> deconstruction is an>> essentially> humanist> analytical endeavor. A>> metarhetoric to end> all> metarhetorics. Which>> doesn't mean I don't admire>> it-- it's just that I>> see it, like humanism> generally,> as an essentially>> destructive> enterprise.> Deterritorialization is not>> used by> Deleuze to refer> to humanism-- it means>> taking> one mountain and ending> up with "A Thousand>>> Plateaus" (the title of a book of> his), or taking>>> an arboreal root network and repacing> it with a>>> rhizome (everything connected to> everything).>> I>>> could maybe take a different topic if you wanted.> I>>> would like to write about Nudd and Barrow in> terms>> of> their maleness, and for that to make> sense, I>> would> like to talk about what I learned> from Lewis>> and> Firestone. Although I can't help> but bring in>>> Sedgwick when talking about the way> their>> effeminacy> reinforces their gender.>> I> find it>> highly doubtful that "subconscious sex"> (a> very>> useful idea) is unconnected to someone's> gender>>> (behavior and perception). Who they want> to sleep>>> with sems far less a part of their> everyday>> existence,> or anyone's business.>> I'm> listening to>> your slightly-un-recent Random show.>> That was a>> fanatastic Aphex Twin song you played.>> It's al>> great.>>>>

--- Noah Berlatsky wrote:>>>>>> I>> listened to Between the Buried and Me; need to> do>>>> so again.>>>> Okay; sexuality *is* the> identity (or>> refusal to>> identify, I guess); sex> is actually>> putting the>> parts together, or> discussing the>> parts in social>> isolation.> Deterritorialization>> sounds like>> humanist> deconstruction; weird.>>>> I>> mean, is this> Bordorowiz bigger than Baumgardner?>>>> Or Dame> Darcy? I've got a bunch of big names>>>>> (relatively)...don't know if I need to go asking>>>>> people I hate just for the PR boost....>>>> If I>>> remember right, Julia Serrano says that>>> everybody>> has sexuality (who they want to sleep>>> with);>> gender traits; and a subconscious sex> (what>> they>> see themselves as, male or female> or>>>> indeterminate.) All of them vary and none of> them>>>> are dependent on each other (though I> assume they>>>> can affect each other in various> ways.)>>>> I may do>> a thing with quotes from> Firestone and>> Lewis. I>> wish I could get somebody> to write an>> essay about>> them, but I don't know> that I>> necessarily want to>> do it myself and> you've got>> enough on your plate.>> I am going to> reread Dialectic>> of Sex, though,>> after I read> this Eve Sedgwick book>> I got.>>>>>>>>>

Well, we'll>>>> see.> Reserve your right to bitch and> moan. I hope>>>>> Mary Patten responds.>> Have you listened to>>> Between>> the Buried and Me? What> an insanely>>> weird/unweird>> brilliant tour de chops.> Make> sure>> you hear the>> hidden track at the end.>>> Right-->> sexuality as a>> thing you own and> represent and>>> observe, a personal>> Jesus in your> genitals. The>>> genitals are much more>> mysterious> as social>> objects> than mere badges of>>> pleasurable>> entitlement. Homo and> hetero, it's> a>> sorry>> substitute for gender as a way to>> confrint>> the>> world. Gregg Bordowitz says "All>> sexuality is>>>> queer sexuality" (you shoudl> totally try> to get>> him>> to contribute, it would> raise the profile>>> quite a>> bit, though you would> be totally annoyed>> by> him)-->> which is true,> insofar as it implies>> all> sexuality>> is> meaningless. It's a synonym for>>> "lifestyle,">>> essentially, and thus a stand-in and>>> facade for>>> economic, historical, and gender>> relations.>> Like>> "spirituality" attempts to hide>>> "religion.">>>> Deterritorialization (a Deleuze>>> term) describes the>>> fundamental disintegrative>>> force of (humanist)>>> modernity, in which depth> and>> centrality and>>> "verticality" are turned> into a>> flattened grid,>> there> is iteration and> "play,">> boundaries are>> absent,> identity is> consumed and>> consumable,>> everything is>> marginal.>> Reterritorialization, a>> more murky> term,> (in my>> head) refers to an attempt>> to deal> with> artifacts>> instead of rhetoric,>> establish> new> boundaries and>> a new relevance for>> old> discredited> forms,>> re-energize large-scale>>> affiliations.> Shulamith>> Firestone is all about>>> saying gender is>>> essential, and looking at> concrete>> social forms,>> and> inventing weird new> arrangements>> for things.>> Lewis is> attempting a> reconception of>> the human>> and animal> cosmology,> magical and divine,>>>> abjection and>> beatification. They both seem like>>>>> reterritorializers> to me, which is why they> piss>>>> off the humanists.>> I saw an incredible> John>>>> Bellows performance last> night. He played> last,>>>> because he had to take his> girlfriend to> the>>>> hospital for a brown recluse bite> (she's>>> recovering>> and okay). He did my favorite> songs,>>> including "The>> Straightest Lines," some old>> stuff>> I never heard, a>> Kinks cover ("we are not> two,> we>> are one"?), and a>> Nirvana cover (the> hidden>>> Nevermind track with all>> the> screaming).>> Whew. I>> may need to use some of>>> that for my next>>> statement of universal>>> macro-insightfulness.>>>>>>>>>

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