Ktismatics

29 January 2010

Bullshit, Romantic Bullshit, Childish Bullshit

Filed under: Culture, Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 8:16 am

[30 JAN. UPDATE: Per blog stats, yesterday was the busiest day ever on Ktismatics. Just goes to show…]

“a) critics are trolls = bullshit, it’s a way to demonize critique and critics, it’s not new and it’s not useful, hate critics if you want, don’t pretend you can do without them.  b) philosopher as a solitary genius writing away his books in his study = Romantic bullshit, never happened before, will never happen, regardless of all that propaganda aka “advice on how to write” (aka “Just do it like I do it”)  c) trolls are out to get me/us = childish bullshit (“mommy, there’s a monster under my bed”), no one cares and wishes Harman “to fail” – philosophical is personal: you’re either with Harman all the way (with allowable deviance a la Shaviro) or you are his enemy (cf. Paul Ennis’ sad fate) – there’s no neutral third position. Love it or leave it, if you’re not leaving, you’re secretly loving etc etc.”

This is Mikhail’s dismissal of Graham Harman’s “troll theory,” on which yesterday’s post-and-discussion at Ktismatics was premised. Of course Mikhail is under no obligation to engage substantively with Graham’s position or with my posted engagement with it. Bullshit, Romantic bullshit, childish bullshit: this profane responsorium to Graham’s litany probably does summarize succinctly Mikhail’s views on the subject. But what’s to be done with it? At every turn it transforms the abstract into the personal, debate into disdain.

On the timeline of yesterday’s thread Mikhail’s comment immediately followed one of my own. I had just cited portions of Verene’s Speculative Philosophy — a book that Mikhail had previously recommended on his blog — suggesting that the distinction between speculation and critique upheld by Harman conforms to a long continental philosophical tradition. Bullshit, says Mikhail. I follow Mikhail’s “Three Bullshits” polemic with this:

Clearly the whole Troll conflict isn’t just a matter of creation versus discovery or speculation versus critique. Personalities clash, feelings are hurt, people act like bigger assholes than they might otherwise be. I’m probably regarded as an ally of the Trolls inasmuch as I condemn the dehumanizing and demonizing rhetoric so often employed against them (us?) by the “Bullies.” However, I find that practically the only time the philosophical Trolls comment here is when I write about the Bullies, and the only time the Bullies comment here (even more rare) is when I write about themselves. The recently-departed Kvond once accused me of writing posts like this one in order to boost readership for the blog. I don’t think that’s the case (at least not consciously); nevertheless, posts like this do draw more readers and commenters than anything I might write about realism or social constructivism or science or any of the other substantive topics on which the philosophical Trolls and Bullies disagree intellectually. I used to feel slighted, but no more, for I too have transcended commentary and ascended into the rarefied air where pure creation is wrought by the mighty Titans of Thought!

I just downloaded a review of Harman’s book on Latour referenced by someone on your blog, Mikhail, but since I’ve only read part of the book in question and none of Latour I’ll probably not have anything substantive to say about it.

…to which Mikhail replied thusly:

Wait, am I a Troll or a Bully?

I read that review, but since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know how accurately it represents the book’s problems. I once had a conversation with an old friend who confided that he read some Harman before Harman started blogging and thought it was okay, but now he cannot read him anymore, because he knows more about the author. Now, how does one react to this? On the one hand, we all read biographies, we all want to know who was the person behind the books – and Harman’s own argument is that it is important to keep philosopher and his/her philosophy together. On the other hand, biographical data is only good when it helps us LOVE the author and we are not allowed to use any of the biographical data to criticize the argument (it’s ad hominem and so on). I find this strange, don’t you?

So I creatively came up with the following characterization of Harman’s “troll theory” – everyone back the fuck off from MY idea – I think it’s a preventive ad hominem strike (a la George W. Bush and The Terrorists). That is to say, you strike your critics before they strike you by identifying a fundamental flaw in their being, not their doing (being a troll as being-critical): “no matter what you say, you are always already a troll; you are not a troll because you snark from nowhere, you snark from nowhere because you are a troll, it’s part of your being, you are a toxic person – now, speak!”

All of this is quite amusing; it might even be accurate. But does Mikhail give ME some love even after I practically begged him for it? He does not. I’ve just gotten done pointing out that the Trolls — and I reassure Mikhail in my next comment that he definitely is a Troll — typically comment on my philosophically-inflected posts only in order to bash the Bullies. So what does Mikhail do in response to this observation? He calls attention to himself (“am I a Troll or a Bully”), then goes ahead and bashes the Bully some more.

I guess in Mikhail’s case I’ll have to agree with him: it’s all personal. If his seeming obsession with Graham was once grounded in philosophical critique, it isn’t any more. It’s an outpouring of personal antagonism. Personally, I don’t believe that Mikhail “hides” behind a false blogging identity: in all likelihood he would say the same things to Graham in personal conversation at a coffee shop that he does in the blogs. Is that a good thing?

I’m sure that Graham believes that the uniqueness of his work stems at least in part from his uniqueness as a person: he sees things that others have not seen, and he presents them in a style that speaks to some who might not otherwise hear. In my view Graham over-psychologizes honest intellectual disagreements, a tendency which he demonstrates several times in the interview I linked to in yesterday’s post. So I suppose the Troll can point a finger at the Bully and say “he started it.” “Did not,” the Bully counters. “Did so!” “Did not!” Where’s René Girard when we need him? Here’s the main difference I can see in this mimetic rivalry: the Bullies all have book deals; the Trolls do not.

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80 Comments »

  1. This post is great, who cares if kvond (or anybody else) says you want to get blog ratings? I mean how unnatural can you get. One of the best of all the bloggers, Liberal Woggia, even likes to have an audience. He’s a bit too heart-on-the-sleeve and politically correct (too a fault, I think, but god knows, I’m way overboard at the other end) for me not to disagree with him a lot, but he is one whose sincerity you cannot fail to respect–he has good will.

    “Here’s the main difference I can see in this mimetic rivalry: the Bullies all have book deals; the Trolls do not.”

    Since the very person who said you were trying to drum up blog ratings by writing bully/troll/vampire posts thinks Zizek is the ‘first blogger’ by virtue of not writing blogs (oh yes, I risk destroying the world by saying this, but maybe one could even say ‘Zizek is the Garbo of bloggers’. I mean, just because I know such a thing is preposterous for the ‘Anne Murray of bloggers’ doesn’t mean some of the Chicago theologians won’t feel that way, even if they haven’t seen ‘Queen Christina’ or ‘Anna Karenina’, not only before the Slovene version, but even before Vivien Leigh’s hideous Scarlett O’Hara version…)

    This is excellent, although I wouldn’t say 100% of the time true, but hey, maybe 98% of the time, yes. It’s an excellent Didion-style hatchet-bitch ending, I also use them whenever I can, why resist a succulent piece of meat if you’re not a vegetarian and live in the peaceable kingdom? To Didionize it perfectly (not that I think ‘it’s necessarily a bad thing’, lol, the way you’ve written it), and be even more cutting, the construction would leave out the opening clause entirely, and consist of two paragraphs, as follows:

    The Bullies all have book deals.

    The Trolls do not.

    “Harman’s own argument is that it is important to keep philosopher and his/her philosophy together. On the other hand, biographical data is only good when it helps us LOVE the author and we are not allowed to use any of the biographical data to criticize the argument (it’s ad hominem and so on). I find this strange, don’t you?”

    Some of this is good, because Harman’s attitude is really pretty transparent about this, but Mikhail’s may be as well. I’m not sure he HAS to love, that’s just Harman’s number, but it could be that he NEVER loves, although I assure you I won’t be exposing myself to find out.

    “Personally, I don’t believe that Mikhail “hides” behind a false blogging identity: in all likelihood he would say the same things to Graham in personal conversation at a coffee shop that he does in the blogs. Is that a good thing?”

    Frankly, yes, it is. He doesn’t sound physically violent, just perhaps a bit on the cold side.

    “But does Mikhail give ME some love even after I practically begged him for it? He does not.”

    Oh, one never ought to beg Mikhail for love, but at least he doesn’t ever give even the slightest indication he’d give any. My troll at CPC always swears love and then says it was just a lampoon of my ‘overblown style’. This is harder to deal with, although you don’t ever ‘beg for the love’, since it does at least seem to recur. What you do is decide ‘well, if that’s love, I certainly don’t want any more of it’. But that took a lot longer, because it was never clear–it still isn’t, by the way, but the ‘Trial Period’ is over, and was much too long as it is.

    Although I did get, as Professor Ads would say, some new ‘publishable work’ from it.

    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 29 January 2010 @ 10:04 am

    • Thanks, Quantity. I like the proposed two-paragraph Didionized ending: it would nicely disguise my own envy of the book-deal faction.

      Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 10:43 am

  2. I’m sure that Graham believes that the uniqueness of his work stems at least in part from his uniqueness as a person: he sees things that others have not seen, and he presents them in a style that speaks to some who might not otherwise hear.

    But isn’t that just bullshit, John? If someone pretends to a species of truth which ultimately escapes rational explicability and discursive communicability and they refuse to be hidebound by the superficial vagaries of logic [‘I have never accepted the split between person and idea; ideas always grow from a specific life, and so it is false to say that all that matters about a statement is the truth or falsity of its propositional content. The same statement does not mean the same thing coming from different mouths. For instance, “all is one” can be profound coming from some minds and a platitude from others.’], shouldn’t they just be directed – gently but firmly – away from the philosophy department and in the general direction of the local seminary?

    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 29 January 2010 @ 10:23 am

    • Plus it’s just really a correlationist way of thinking.

      Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 10:40 am

    • It ia correlationist, but it doesn’t valorize the idea-thinker correlation. The idea’s relationship with the cotton is no different in kind from the idea’s relationship with Graham.

      Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 10:44 am

      • I don’t see that. It seems to me exactly a valorization of the idea-thinker correlation.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 10:56 am

      • Maybe that’s too strong a statement. What I see in Levi and Graham is a rejection of Continental ideas accompanied by a loving embrace of its methods. It seems to me that rejecting the ideas necessitates rejecting the methods.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 11:00 am

    • away from the philosophy department and in the general direction of the local seminary?

      Not necessarily, and the posture is probably valuable once in awhile, even if he ultimately needs to be fired. He can always make a living as some kind of hack, of course. Just because his attitude is ‘not very professional philosopher’ doesn’t mean somebody shouldn’t have tried to do it ‘once they were up there’, in terms of reputation. And one of the things that was early on pointed out to me by Arpege is that philosophy would usually seem to imply that sophistication and cultural literacy would be good bedfellows with her, that is, philosophy, as I believe Nietzsche did refer to it as ‘une femelle’, and of course I believe everything Nietzsche ever said except for his lack of courage when it came to Wagner; and yet they do not. Philosophers (Mikhail being a rare exception here) do not usually care about anything classical except some literature, they usually only keep up with the latest movies and pop music, and it seems never to have occurred to them that philosophy (I mean the Titans, the ones with ‘the Greatest Hits’) is quite as elitist as any libretto, at least of the mawkish variety.

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 29 January 2010 @ 10:47 am

  3. ‘I have never accepted the split between person and idea…’

    Is that quote from Harman’s blog, Jacques? It does make sense for him to have said so in the context of the Latourian “actants” and encounters between discrete objects only occurring in the relational plasm that mashes them up together into a new object. So idea+Harman isn’t the same object as idea+somebodyelse. And so also idea+Harman+Mikhail is a different composite reader-object than, say, idea+Harman+me. So yes, this seems problematic. Talking about Harman’s ideas separate from talking about Harman might actually be doing violence to his ontology.

    Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 10:40 am

    • Is that quote from Harman’s blog, Jacques?

      Yes. Ironically it’s in the context of James Watson’s The Double Helix, precisely where, one would have thought, “all that matters about a statement is the truth or falsity of its propositional content”.

      Comment by Jacques Liverot — 29 January 2010 @ 11:29 am

    • When delving into the fundamental nature of reality, I for one would be surprised to discover that it’s thoroughly infused with Graham Harman’s essence.

      Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 11:44 am

  4. About the love-giving… I think it’s maybe worth exploring what giving you some love would have meant in this case.

    In discussions with Kvond, I often sensed something that I would describe as not getting any love. For me, this meant a kind of inflexibility in his way of interacting — as if conceding a minor point or admitting something less than total certainty were tantamount to complete surrender. I am sure that this approach has its merits, but it also tends to constrain discussion to the metaphorical realm of doing battle. Bashing works in this realm.

    Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 10:50 am

    • Yeah, that’s good, I agree with literally all of it, and glad you chose somebody I wasn’t thinking about, because that proves that it applies at least twice now–and surely more.

      Comment by quantity of butchness — 29 January 2010 @ 10:54 am

      • Of course, I don’t think in terms of ‘not getting any love’ in arguments on the internet unless it is with bloggers I’d like to meet and/or do meet and/or feel like I know without meeting yet (as John). I’m not criticizing yours or John’s use of this, nor various other charmers who talk about ‘lurve’, I just don’t use the word for the purely virtual exchange–except when I mistake it for pointing to something beyond that virtuality, of which I am most certainly culpable. I don’t see the word ‘love’ as having to do with flexibility in arguments for me, but I see why you could express it that way.

        But kvond may already be suffering from a lack of love, due to the determination of John to write yet another post that will shove up ratings and get all the hot-shit intellectualism going.

        Comment by quantity of butchness — 29 January 2010 @ 10:58 am

      • I agree- it’s not a very insightful way of describing it. What I like about it, though, is that it counteracts the “manliness” that’s at the heart of the “doing battle” approach.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 11:10 am

    • Kvond also accused me of letting my civility code lapse when it suited me, which I acknowledged to be the case. However, I’m happy to send some love Kvond’s way, wherever he is, and don’t regard these personal comments about him as criticisms or attacks, but rather observations of an almost clinical nature. However, we also know that Kvond isn’t fond of psychoanalysis either…

      Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 11:10 am

      • Someone has to write a long post about how some virtual personas just “click” in the interwebs (for example, I’m pretty sure people in the present company, plus Carl Dyke and some others, would be just dandy as conversationists) and some just don’t. What sort of an object is it to “talk” to another person without physically ever meeting them? Certainly, some interactions over the past years have helped me tremendously, and some didn’t.

        Ok, now every get back to talking about ME!

        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 29 January 2010 @ 11:21 am

      • It comes back to pragmatism for me, as always. Our approaches to discussion are going to be determined by what we want to accomplish. To realize my purpose in a discussion, the giving and receiving of “love” is required. So maybe Harman is right to some extent — it’s possible that in a particular discussion, a particular person’s purpose is simply to “tear down” the interlocutor. It would be naive, though, to think that this was *all* that was going on. In most interactions, it seems to me that people don’t have a clear idea what they’re after.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 11:23 am

      • Mikhail, you may have a chance to test this thesis in my case as I will be in Fort Collins again the first week of June for the AP World reading. If Graham is a nice guy in person but bullies up when mediated electronically, perhaps my meat self will be the Bad Kirk.

        Speaking of Graham, paying him and his circle no mind does wonders for my blood pressure and general demeanor, even as I drift with neither feck nor project. But one of my personal failings is that I can only focus on correcting one of my personal failings at once, so something had to give.

        Asher, in most interactions what people are after is interaction, sort of like dogs sniffing each others’ butts. What seems confused about the content of interaction is therefore that it’s mostly just an excuse for the occasion itself. Mmm, you smell nice.

        Comment by Carl — 31 January 2010 @ 1:05 pm

      • Maybe John and I can do a road trip to Fort Collins and we can all do a beer at New Belgium brewery?

        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 31 January 2010 @ 2:00 pm

      • This is exactly what should happen.

        Comment by Carl — 1 February 2010 @ 6:27 pm

  5. Oh boy, I finally got a whole post all to myself! My work is done – celebratory get together?

    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 29 January 2010 @ 10:55 am

    • My whole motivation was your blowing me off for our coffee rendezvous because it was “too cold.” So perhaps my work is done too — your cafe or mine, Mikhail?

      Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 10:59 am

      • It was freaking cold! Sorry about that, it was my fault completely – I’m a cold loveless son of a bitch, you know it. Actually, I going to be going to Superior next week for sure, so to answer directly – your cafe!

        As for comments and love, I’m sorry if I missed the dynamics here, in my utter hate for all things Harman I was blinded by my trollish rage and couldn’t see the truth. To be fair though, it was never about “philosophical critique” (I think I’m more in tune with what Levi is trying to do, plus, despite appearance, he’s a much nicer person to deal with) – i.e. I never engaged Harman as a philosopher, it was always personal dislike.

        As for “speculation” vs. “critique” – the point is well-taken, however, I have more to say about that later (in person).

        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 29 January 2010 @ 11:12 am

      • I look forward to it; let me know the day. Be forewarned that I shall arrive armed to the teeth.

        Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 11:20 am

      • Try living a mile south of Lake Ontario, wussy.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 11:24 am

      • I was mostly concerned about the driving conditions, I love cold in itself – I take long contemplative walks in -20C (when it gets that cold), reminds me of home…

        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 29 January 2010 @ 11:30 am

      • Isn’t that where the manly eliminativists meet for scotch and cigars, Asher?

        Comment by john doyle — 29 January 2010 @ 11:31 am

      • Yes. Also, they gut ideas and put transcendental critiques through a big, yellow Bosch planer.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 29 January 2010 @ 11:51 am

  6. I have to say that I find Dr. Harman’s so-called Allure repulsive, which makes him an ideal parody target. The Temptress is Hell bent on punishing everyone for the fact that she can’t get a date, and the reason for this is neither her looks (although it is one of the reasons), nor the off-putting nature of her theorizing about THINGS, but the quasi-diplomatic affluent expatriate shtick, in which her endless Zizekian ranting gets associated with some kind of privileged white trash status. The interview on top of that was insulting, because she did not fairly take into account that her philosophy MAY legitimaly be considered anti-human because of its libidinal investment in objects.

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 January 2010 @ 8:28 am

  7. A bit late to the kaffeeklatsch, vopr, but so glad you could join us. As you know, many do find his allure alluring, so arguably we’re talking about subjective tastes rather than objective aesthetics. Of course many also find your allure repulsive for some reason, vopr. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Zamalek has many dates, which is why he spends so much time in taxicabs. I enjoy some of his racontars, usually more so than the advice columns or excerpts from famous military figures. Regarding libidinal investment in objects, I’m surprised not to have seen a direct Lacanian interpretation of the allure of objects that perpetually withdraw their essence from all relations. Maybe I missed it?

    Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 8:50 am

    • :”Of course many also find your allure repulsive for some reason, vopr.”

      LOL!

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 30 January 2010 @ 9:26 am

  8. As you know, many do find his allure alluring,

    If you’re talking about the blawgosphere nerds, I would say SUITS THEM RIGHT.

    Regarding libidinal investment in objects,

    I meant to say the Egyptian Temptress LIKES to be an Object; her self-adoration naturally leads to total Objectification.
    In this sense how date she critisize those who are frightened of her frigidity>???

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 January 2010 @ 9:50 am

  9. I see: in Lacanese, to like being the Object is to desire the desire of the Other, occupying the position of the hysteric rather than the obsessive, yes? Doesn’t the Lacanian hysteric desire to have her energy sucked, but she doesn’t put out so as to keep the vampires unsatisfied and coming back for more? Btw, I think there may be an affinity between the alluring but withdrawn essence of objects and the hauntological fetishizing of commodities, don’t you?

    Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 10:19 am

    • see: in Lacanese, to like being the Object is to desire the desire of the Other, occupying the position of the hysteric rather than the obsessive, yes? Doesn’t the Lacanian hysteric desire to have her energy sucked, but she doesn’t put out so as to keep the vampires unsatisfied and coming back for more?

      That is heaven, and reduces such diagnoses to the bloodless, fleshless non-sex things they are. Everyone to some degree worships the pleasure of someone who gets hold of it, but the Pleasurala may not be a hysteric once the Knowledge of Accessibility Without Trolls is discovered (my Chinese troll is suffering from my newly discovered independence, and outing of her pulp tourist reviews), and it is really only then that Pleasurala stops ‘putting out’, as you so deliciously put it. Only an Object in the form of Pleasurala can enjoy the ‘withdrawnness’ of the object, which is why my interest in Harman’s ‘personal objectness’ is not very strong, as are those of others, because there really is no time to spare on such matters. Frankly, Harman could pass as a Troll as far as I’m concerned, and I think it only a matter of time before he gets ‘the change’ put in. ‘Bullying’ in the form of book production self-promoted time and again begins to lose its savour rather a bit too quickly, if you’re always a smiling ‘good boy’ and ‘A student’ who’s been just, like, everywhere, except for New York and Los Angeles (I’m not sure, but I think these omissions show in the work, hence the tendency to preen unpunished at times, which privilege could only be bestowed on a much-published author who is always collegial with his French mentor, but with whom he shows slight disagreement from time to time, so as to display ‘good form’ in the form of ‘jovial and healthy debate’.

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 30 January 2010 @ 11:02 am

  10. I don’t think the diagnosis works either, Quantity, though it’s very likely I’ve read the textbook improperly. In this case the putting out seems prodigious.

    But see, I’m obsessing on Graham again. I’ll let it go ’cause it’s sucking my energy.

    Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 11:53 am

  11. That is heaven, and reduces such diagnoses to the bloodless, fleshless non

    You’ll be surprised that the character I most identify you with in PRINCESS AND FROG is neither the frog nor the affluent Prince, but princess TIANA; she’s always frowning at people because they have their petty obsessions instead of helping her find the prince and finally marry.

    Otherwise you could’ve in these 3 years taken the trouble to read something like Bruce Fink’s Lacanian subject, which puts things in completely sober terms, and you would’ve seen that this science is no adumbration.

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 January 2010 @ 12:47 pm

    • “You’ll be surprised”

      Hardly, now that you don’t have the Madeleine to do any more (since you could have at least taken the time to read the first 12 pages of Recherches du Temps Perdu to find out where the classical Madeleine is), I gave you away with whatever cartoon you want to cyber-stick me with, and even did provide you with a new cartoon-wife, I think you call her ‘Nikki’, to be marriaged to.

      “which puts things in completely sober terms, ”

      If you only do social drinking and light smoking, you lose interest in unnecessary sobriety (especially as it applies to social climbing), and realize that your real needs are TEETHRAYKIT, and it’s supposed to work even in moderation. Of course, sparkling white teeth are an especial non-interest of yours, as you’ve often pointed out their odium, but then you can always dream of Gauloise Days, YellowSmile Nights.

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 30 January 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  12. Just listen to this shit

    I’ve heard the critiques to which you refer in your question, and just can’t make much sense of them. Some people have even claimed that object-oriented philosophy says that “humans are worthless.” I don’t get it. Did Copernicus say: “The earth is not the center of the universe, and therefore it is worthless”? Did Darwin say: “We are related to apes, and therefore we are worthless”? Why this all-or-nothing model, in which humans must be everything or nothing?

    Just look at how cleverly the expatriate avoids the main issue, which is WHY do people get this impression? What MORE is there in the object-oriented concept, other than the Temptress’s claims that this is this and that is that, that could call on such a reaction? Where is her SELF-QUESTIONING in this regard? Instead, she first compares herself to Copernicus, then to Darwin, and then she applies the All-or-Nothing model to describe Herself as the Master of the Objects and all the rest of us as either Trolls and Grey Vampires. She doesn’t even mention how much her apprentices like Levi lick her ass, because of course it’s self-explanatory and self-understood that they should.

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 January 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  13. [30 JAN. UPDATE: Per blog stats, yesterday was the busiest day ever on Ktismatics. Just goes to show…]

    You are welcome, John. I think that coffee should be on you!

    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 30 January 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    • I already squandered my time and space on you Mikhail, and now I must put out my money also? Okay fine, but just one!

      Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 1:42 pm

      • “You are welcome, John. ”

        I agree, Mikhail. You are just sooooo Box Office. I’d recommend sticking to your Met HD at the Movies, I know they’re a bit expensive, as Mrs. O’Nassis used to say in East Side antique stores, when she thought that might make the dealers give them to her for her Box Office.

        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 30 January 2010 @ 1:48 pm

      • Why do I only get measly 5 “o”s in your “so”? I believe I deserve at least a dozen, considering my high box office number.

        Met is doing quite well without my awesome powers, but I’m sure they’ll calling soon anyway, considering my success over here at John’s place. I’m eagerly awaiting by the phone!

        Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 30 January 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  14. I think the discussion on this post exemplifies Marx’s view of history: first as tragedy, the second time as farce. Actually in this case it’s more like two servings of farce.

    Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    • I believe Marx is citing Zizek in this case, doesn’t he?

      Comment by Mikhail Emelianov — 30 January 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    • Well you know how those Marxists are about disregarding intellectual property rights.

      Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  15. eloise what do you WANT, do you want us to LOVE Dr. Harman or something?

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 January 2010 @ 2:46 pm

    • Since my first exposure to/by the Cultural Parody Center I’ve become much more attuned to the creative motivating power of mutual hostility. You and Patrick have consistently amped up the malice to at-times deafening levels. As you know, vopr, I’ve self-consciously tried to host and civil and thoughtful tea party here at Ktismatics, attempting to cultivate in practice a ktismatical commitment to collaborative creativity. Often enough it has worked, at least for me. At the same time, I find myself not just disagreeing with but angered by some of the bullshit that gets slung on some of the other blogs. Sometimes I comment — courteously and constructively, of course. Sometimes the provocation generates enough energy for me to write a new post of my own.

      I’m sure you’ve noticed how the blogs around here tend to languish if there isn’t some name-calling and pissing in the corners going on. Sometimes the malice takes the form of critique, at other times it’s a critique of the critiquers, or even of critique itself. Of course there’s always some weighty theoretical disagreement to be aired and hashed through. At the same time, one has to wonder whether anger and aggression and competitiveness actually generate the intellectual passion, whether affect precedes and creates cognition. Maybe it’s the ones who are most deeply aroused to anger who actually find the sustainable energy necessary to become intellectuals. If people just called each other dickheads all the time, maybe no intellectual work would ever get done.

      Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 9:03 am

  16. I just stopped over at Larval Subjects, which is closing in on ONE MILLION HITS!

    Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  17. I think Graham Harman writes some interesting stuff about objects and so on. I don’t find it incoherent or laughable; most of it is thought-provoking. I suspect that having enemies and getting angry energize his work rather than draining him, since he keeps returning to the trolls/vampires discourse far more often than seems necessary for a focused guy such as himself. Also, any publicity is good publicity, and he seems to take advantage of any opportunity for promoting himself and his ideas: the vampire stuff is part of his PR schtick. In his aggressive competitiveness and his knack for garnering attention he shows some of the reasons why he’s successful and also why he pisses off so many people.

    Comment by john doyle — 30 January 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    • a focused guy such as himself

      Iowans have one of the strictest work ethics in the world, but he ‘attracts attention’ as a person because of this, his nice ‘just-folks’ thing is really enough for him, because you are right that he is very success-oriented. The ‘Egyptian Temptress’ is actually an extreme miscalculation, because he is not charismatic, at least in the Egyptian sense. I’m trying to remember the name of that clerk in one of the Durrell Quartet books he reminds me of, but can’t offhand. I think that, even in Cairo or ‘Alex’, he’d wear Xmas ties and red socks to functions and be the jolly ‘auntie’ at a chaste slumber party. Just throwing out images that occurred to me after you said you thought he’d be a good character. But the demand for strict civility is also good caricature material, and goes with culture in the 00’s and 10’s, because it eliminates all fire, fierceness, and brio. And he’d probably prefer showing American around to actually meeting Nessim or Justine. Personally, I see him as somewhat comical as a character, but not quite interesting enough except if one were writing a comedy skit for TV. That might work, and pay too. I’ve known short, squat aspiring actor-comedians who could do him in a skit. If used in a larger work or context, he’d need to be a supporting character; that’s not the same as his ‘lofty reputation’ currently being enjoyed in the OOO. But then most of these philosophers are not very colorful characters. KDD is far more so, and far more interesting, as is Arpege. I thought Nick Land had leading-man possibiities, but he insisted that no, he’s a nerd. Nerds are stars of films like ’40-year-old Virgin’, or whatever the title was. Of course, you might be able to do something with it, you seem to think you could.

      If you think of it, only a few writers of any kind are really interesting as personalities, maybe William Burroughs, Faulkner, Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence (maybe, but wouldn’t you just do a plangent bio? with lots of English countryside?), and not that many actors, frankly. There are notable exceptions, of course, like Marilyn Monroe, who may be the most interesting, and Sarah Bernhardt was an wildly eccentric character, Francoise Sagan wrote an amusing late novel about her. Arletty would be interesting because of her collaboration, and then James Dean and the others who are well-known, obviously Lana and Johnny are interesting, Joan Crawford was. It’s not usually the most professional ones who make good characters even there, although actors are colorful. Edith Evans and Garbo are much greater, but there’s no story there, IMO.

      Comment by quantity of butchness — 30 January 2010 @ 4:39 pm

      • I think that Graham would need to undergo a major fictional makeover, and as you pointed out, Quantity, Dejan’s parodic re-envisioning would factor into the mix. The Lacanian interpretation of fetishizing the objects combined with kvond’s interpretation of the allure of objects as a kind of Western orientalism invoke some possibilities. He’s said that he’s a large specimen physically, so I get a little bit of Sidney Greenstreet from that. Then I get a picture of the civil Iowan academician/bureaucrat riding taxis through the alluring nighttime Cairo streets, stopping at hookah bars to regale the locals with his stories, bringing back to his bachelor apartment… who knows what?

        UPDATE: I just noticed on the blogstats that this is the 10 thousandth comment written on Ktismatics. Of those, 9,991 have been approved — although a few have been modified for decorum’s sake.

        Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 9:23 am

    • I don’t find it incoherent or laughable; most of it is thought-provoking.

      You have read Prince of Networks, haven’t you John?

      Comment by Jacques Liverot — 1 February 2010 @ 4:08 am

      • Only about a third of it actually, Jacques. Would you regard it as laughable or non-thought-provoking or both? In whole or in part, in substance or in style? Did anything stand out for you as particularly ludicrous or inane?

        I’ll probably write a post later on some thoughts provoked by the combined actant of Guerrilla Metaphysics, my reading, and my going for a run. And these thoughts did cause me to smile a bit to myself.

        Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 6:31 am

      • Would you regard it as laughable or non-thought-provoking or both?

        Both, except perhaps a foretaste of what open access Continental Philosophy publishing has to offer.

        In whole or in part

        The former.

        in substance or in style?

        Both: complete disregard for logic as a conscious stylistic choice (see above).

        Did anything stand out for you as particularly ludicrous or inane?

        The fact that anyone who pretends to be a technically competent philosopher would give Science and Technology Studies in general, and Latour’s work in particular, a second glance. I quote: “If philosophy has not taken up the challenge [of Latour and STS], this tells us more about the current state of our field than about the merits of Latour’s position.”

        Comment by Jacques Liverot — 1 February 2010 @ 6:49 am

      • I’m certainly at a disadvantage by not being a technically competent philosopher, which is why I’m not confident in offering either support or critique. Our recent discussion of Fear of Knowledge focused on both postmodern and premodern reluctance to take science seriously as the arbiter of competing knowledge claims about the world. Is it that Latour puts forth the notion that scientific knowledge is created by tests of strength among competing claims and advocates rather than discovered in the real world? You cited social scientist Steve Fuller as saying that “Alchemy and phrenology are indeed part of the backstory of modern science, and had they enough practitioners or believers today, they would be worth trying to incorporate in the science curriculum to illustrate the context of discovery.” You also identified Fuller as a Latourian — Latour, who claimed that nobody died of the tuberculosis bacillus before that organism was discovered. Would you say that this relativizing of knowledge is what you find particularly incoherent and laughable, Jacques? And then perhaps you find incoherent or laughable the follow-up defense that you’re confusing knowledge with reality, epistemology with ontology? And that a wrong idea is just as real as a right idea, and that ideas are just as real as the things in the world that the ideas are about?

        Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 7:38 am

  18. I suspect that having enemies…

    I’m not her enemy, I’m don’t care about her. She interferes with my rude fantasies about the Texan psychoanalyst. They’re like two lesbians complimenting each other for reading Marguerite Duras. And it’s getting weirder, more arcane by the day, growing into some SF obsession about becoming the next Einstein. But you’ve taken me off track Eloise, I was saying that she’s basically brushing off every critic with the statement that she’s right and they’re wrong.

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 30 January 2010 @ 6:12 pm

  19. Is it that Latour puts forth the notion that scientific knowledge is created by tests of strength among competing claims and advocates rather than discovered in the real world?

    Yes: it’s only of interest as an open expression of Latour (and Harman)’s fundamental sophistry.

    Would you say that this relativizing of knowledge is what you find particularly incoherent and laughable, Jacques?

    Yes, it’s immediately self-refuting.

    And then perhaps you find incoherent or laughable the follow-up defense that you’re confusing knowledge with reality, epistemology with ontology?

    I’ve absolutely no idea how that would follow.

    And that a wrong idea is just as real as a right idea, and that ideas are just as real as the things in the world that the ideas are about?

    I’ve never implied that an idea might be any less “real” just because it happens to refer to a state of affairs that doesn’t obtain in reality.

    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 1 February 2010 @ 8:15 am

  20. “I’ve never implied that an idea might be any less “real” just because it happens to refer to a state of affairs that doesn’t obtain in reality.”

    I didn’t say you had, nor have I. In a flat ontology, false ideas/statements are just as real as true ones: this is the point that Levi Bryant keeps making. I agree with him. Epistemology rather than ontology is the place to make distinctions between true and false. When Graham says he wants to “make things more real rather than less real,” I presume he’s responding to foes who would equate false with unreal. I’ve read Deontologistics, who as I understand him makes that assertion: the products of human cognition or society aren’t really real in the same way that nature is real. Presumably there are scientific eliminativists who would agree with Deont., who would say that my perceptions of the color of the sky or the solidity of the table are mere artifacts of my human neural apparatus, illusions rather than reality. This “less rather than more” ontology may be a caricature promoted by Harman and Bryant to dismiss their critics without actually engaging them in substantive conversation. Do you think that’s the case, Jacques?

    Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 8:52 am

    • Aaaaaaaahhhh, I’m being sucked iiiinnnnn!

      OK, so, I’m fine with Munchauseny fignewtons of my imagination being just as real as the undiagnosed cancer that will kill me. Certainly my hypochondria will have effects every bit as real (if normally less catastrophic) as the replication errors that run my cells amok. In fact as a thought, my delusion is real and the actual cancer is not, as long as I’m not aware of the latter. Or for another example, it matters not whether al-Quaeda is correct that the West is corrupting the Umma. Their perception is sufficient to create all the mischief.

      Reading existence through consequence is of course a kind of pragmatism. But I’m even ok with the reality of reportable thoughts that have no detectable consequence – some dreams, perhaps, or fleeting desires, or hypotheses considered and quickly discarded. Still, at least as you report it I’m more in sympathy with DO’s more lumpy ontology. The reality of a thought is importantly different than the reality of a thing in the world: a unicorn is the same as a pony in one realm but quite different in the other. Of course as you say it’s a question for epistemology whether we can ‘really’ tell the difference, but when we do that we’re also making a claim about the existence or not of meat unicorns, as distinct from thought unicorns. Right about here I think Levi’s head explodes?

      Comment by Carl — 1 February 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    • A scheme that gives equal ontological weight to a unicorn and a horse seems inadequate to me too, Carl. But Deont seems to want to dismiss all human artifice as something less than real, which seems goofy since practically everything in my environment is thoroughly prostheticized with all manner of man-made objects, ideas, behavior patterns, and sociocultural systems. This is where my lack of philosophical sophistication gets in my way. Graham and Levi’s porridge is too hot, Deont’s porridge is too cold. Since I can’t give the specs for a just-right ontology, it seems that I’m merely injecting the dreaded vampiric critique from nowhere. But I can kinda say what I want: an ontology that grants reality to unicorns and horses but that distinguishes them on some hierarchical axis.

      Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 3:36 pm

      • The needle I keep jabbing at OOP is: why isn’t it enough that unicorns are just as real as anything else, being instantiated, as they are, in physical brains? Naturalism gives you a flat ontology? So why the negativity toward naturalism?

        Comment by Asher Kay — 1 February 2010 @ 4:26 pm

      • First of all, Goldilocks ontology is this week’s winner.

        Next, as I understand it Levi would reply that of course unicorns and ponies are different sorts of objects, but that qua objects they are exactly as real. And again that’s fine, but to me this ontology is too flat to do any useful work, kind of like a topography in which there are no features by which to get our bearings. In order to say anything interesting at all we have to start making distinctions, that is, unflattening the ontology. And since it’s us making the distinctions based on whatever of our crude powers of perception and conception we bring to bear, we’re back to correlation.

        Asher, if I asked for a unicorn for my birthday, and you did some brain surgery the night before and handed me my prefrontal cortex with a bow on it, would you expect me to thank you?

        Comment by Carl — 1 February 2010 @ 6:21 pm

      • Your question expresses just why this flat naturalistic ontology is only flat along one dimension and anything but flat along others. Everything being equally real makes the reality part uninteresting. But the difference between a chunk of brain and a unicorn! If I carefully ran a horse through a food processor and gave you the bucket of horse, it would call your attention to formal causes – presumably after you’d thanked me. The chunk of cortex had a unicorn and a horse too, probably very nearby, likely even overlapping, and now that I’ve hacked it out of your skull, it doesn’t have either. What sort of formal cause is that? Being becomes boring, while structure becomes very interesting.

        Maybe the best ontology is one that nullifies itself.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 1 February 2010 @ 10:08 pm

      • “Being becomes boring, while structure becomes very interesting.”

        Yes, couldn’t agree more (and thanks for the lovely bucket of horse). Back when I was actually paying attention to the sources of the particular philosophical chum we’re discussing, it seemed to me that Levi was much more interesting and promising than Graham because he seemed to get this. The problem is that he kept noodling around with clearing underbrush, laying groundwork and fighting turf wars, endlessly clearing his throat, rather than getting down to cases where there’s something substantive to be said about structure and dynamics. That might be ok for amateurs like us, but not for someone who wants to change the philosophical game, which inventing new jargons does not do.

        Comment by Carl — 2 February 2010 @ 2:10 pm

      • Carl,

        I can’t resist responding to your points about unicorns. Why do you suppose I advocate the view that unicorns are equally efficacious as horses? The point about fictions is very simple: fictions produce real effects in the world. Just look at this in the case of all sorts of sad beliefs such as the idea of a Jewish conspiracy. Therefore we need a place for them in our ontology. Does this entail that unicorns can be sent to the slaughter-house, ground up, and made into unicorn-burgers? Absolutely not. All objects possess 1) their own differential features, and 2) the degree of impact on the rest of the world about them. A horse affects far more things and has far more powers than a unicorn. Part of any concrete analysis of the world will consist in working out these degrees of power and affect. What shouldn’t be ignored, however, is the manner in which things like fictions nonetheless function as agencies in the world with real effects. If the claim a person is making just seems so ridiculous and outlandish that no reasonable person would advocate it, it’s likely that the person is not making that claim. And this is certainly the case with the way my idea of flat ontology is being portrayed here.

        The specific issue of fictions aside, as I’ve repeatedly noted part of the ontological interest of fictions has nothing to do with fictions themselves but with symbolic entities in general. Just as Freud and neuroscientists study breakdowns in normal neural functioning to learn what normal psychological functioning is, one of the central reasons fictions are interesting is because they shed a lot of light on symbolic entities in general. This is because fictions are purely symbolic and without any material or physical correlates. Now if you hold, as I do, that we need a place in our ontology for entities like money, contracts, institutions, groups, etc., all of which aren’t material things (though they do enter into relations with material things), then perhaps you will see why the investigation of the ontology of purely symbolic entities like fictions is important.

        This converges with some points Asher is making. Asher asks, “but why isn’t enough to say fictions are neuronal patterns in the mind”. I’ve made this argument on a variety of occasions, yet Asher seems to always miss it: I’ve never made the claim that symbolic entities can exist without brains. This is one reason that considerations of mereology are so fundamental and important. No brains, no symbolic entities. What I have argued is that symbolic entities in the robust sense (things like contracts, constitutions, money, etc) aren’t exhausted in their being by what they’re stored in. If Asher were right and money (a symbolic entity) were just in my brain, then I could simply will my one dollar bill to be a one hundred dollar bill. Similarly, I could simply will myself to be unmarried. But no matter how much I fire my neurons willing that bill to be a one million dollar bill the bill is worth no more than one dollar. No matter how much I will myself to be unmarried– even going so far as to leave my partner and live alone –I am still married. When we consider these odd properties of symbolic or semiotic entities it becomes clear that they share properties of both physical objects and imaginings (I distinguish between imaginings and fictional entities, but I’ll leave that aside for now). Like physical objects, these symbolic entities like contracts and money are both independent of minds and possess qualities that cannot be reduced to any mind particular mind regarding them. Like physical objects, these symbolic entities have all sorts of genuine powers that can significantly effect my life. For example, if I’m a billionaire and the economy collapses, suddenly I’ve lost all sorts of powers to act in my world. However, unlike physical objects, there’s a very real sense in which symbolic entities are dependent on minds. So two questions emerge here: 1) what are the unique ontological properties of symbolic entities, and 2) what are the conditions under which they are possible?

        Back to Carl, notice all the distinctions and differentiations being made here. Nothing about flat ontology prevents one from distinguishing imaginings, fictions, symbolic entities, and physical entities. In fact, such distinctions are required. The point is not to subtract these entities from the world altogether when they do, in fact, produce real effects no matter how small. If psychobiological, sociobiological, and neurologically inflected positions have tended towards a rather reactionary apologetics for neo-liberalism, treating social structures as ahistorical, then this is precisely because they have cut these sorts of entities out of their ontology and thus begin from the premise that social structure is based on identical agents in all contexts. They begin with the right motivations (isolating an object from other factors to study it), but then proceed to act as if these other entities that they’ve set aside don’t exist at all and don’t have their own structures and efficacy.

        Comment by larvalsubjects — 3 February 2010 @ 6:35 pm

      • I’ve never made the claim that symbolic entities can exist without brains

        Our particular discussion wasn’t so much about that. If you want to distill it down, I was basically trying to see whether you agreed that there could possibly be a physicalist position that was wholly compatible with your position. I think we made some progress on that, especially on Ian’s blog.

        I don’t think (especially given the money example) that you’re accurately portraying my position. For example, I am not saying anything at all like the claim that money is just in your brain. Not even anything remotely close to that. It’s not a big deal — I don’t believe I have adequately understood or represented your position either. My intuition tells me that you and I could have some very interesting discussions if we approached the whole thing in a different way — starting with really, actually trying to understand one another.

        Which relates to some of John’s broader musings. I think that the reason OOP has sort of stuck in my mind is that I don’t want to let go of it until I’ve really, really grokked it. Some people claim that it is ungrokkable due to it is not coherent, but I don’t feel that I’ve really established whether that’s true.

        Comment by Asher Kay — 3 February 2010 @ 9:36 pm

  21. This “less rather than more” ontology may be a caricature promoted by Harman and Bryant to dismiss their critics without actually engaging them in substantive conversation.

    Well Harman and Bryant persistently misrepresent him as a physicalist, but as anyone familiar with his writings will testify, Brassier’s meontology is in large part inspired by Badiou.

    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 1 February 2010 @ 11:25 am

  22. From Brassier: “Once again, the austerely anti-phenomenological tenor of Badiou’s meontology (a theory of being as nothingness, an ontology of the void) cannot be overemphasized. As he puts it, “We will oppose the rigour of abstraction to the temptation of presence, and being will be said to be only insofar as it cannot be postulated on the basis of any presence or experience.” …he proposes a meontological materialism wherein if being is nothing, this is not because it is more than anything, some sort of unconceptualizable excess, but simply because it is less than anything… the ‘entityness of an entity’ is merely its inconsistent emptiness, an emptiness that cannot be reduced to the consistency of absence understood as the mere opposite of presence.”

    Does this sort of thing make sense to you, Jacques? If finding Harman laughable requires an understanding of meontology as described in these sorts of terms, then I’m not going to start laughing for awhile yet — at least not at Harman. It makes me again think I’m unqualified to endorse or critique, that I’m better off just shrugging my shoulders and moving on to anything, which I simple-mindedly reduce to the opposite of nothing.

    Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  23. Does this sort of thing make sense to you, Jacques?

    Yes, but with regard to Badiou, you’ll find him incomprehensible without at least some knowledge of the Zermelo-Fraenkel axiom system (according to which every other set is constructed from the null set) and the work of set theorists in general, especially that of Paul Cohen.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Brassier makes no concessions whatsoever to the non-specialist reader!

    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 1 February 2010 @ 2:40 pm

  24. I picked up a Zermelo-Fraenkel axiom system at Costco the other day, but when I plugged it in I got nothing. I took it back to customer service. “Are you getting an inconsistent nothingness, or is it more like a consistent opposite of somethingness?” the lady at the counter asked me. I hung my head in shame and walked back to the parking lot. The Zermelo-Fraenkel unit now sits on the garage floor between the rusted-out barbecue grill and the bag of cat litter. I may try to sell it on Craigslist.

    Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 2:50 pm

    • See, this is the problem with the big box stores, no customer support. As any competent onticomerdic technician could tell you, for that application you needed a retro-encabulator: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXJKdh1KZ0w

      Comment by Carl — 1 February 2010 @ 3:12 pm

      • “I’m better off just shrugging my shoulders and moving on to anything, which I simple-mindedly reduce to the opposite
        of nothing.”

        John, you don’t have to be perjorative about your virtues. By ‘anything’, for example, you don’t necessarily mean something that is merely not inferior to nothing.

        “It’s also worth pointing out that Brassier makes no concessions whatsoever to the non-specialist reader!”

        I am glad to hear this, because now I won’t have to read a word of Brassier (never having intended to anyway), since we understand each other so well without needing verbal contact. You see, we have so much in common, we can be like what Michael York was referring to in the old PBS two-parter of ‘love between Nazis’ which was ‘unspoken’. Patricia Hodge wasn’t buying it, in ‘In the Heat of the Day’, but that wouldn’t make her fuck Michael Gambon just because he said ‘but your things are so pretty’>. Not that either Brassier or I are Nazis, just because I’ve been accused of being one by various toads, but because this was an example of what Arpege used to even say was the case even with such texts as ‘Mein Kampf’, i.e., ‘necessarily a BAD THING’, but still, even there, something you ‘might find something in, like literally anywhere else’. In this case, York was talking about a comaraderie in which meetings were not possible, that they were even ‘laughable’, and although I’ve never had it until now, I am delighted to have found this intimate and severe relationship with Ray Brassier, whom I’ve been forced to encounter without even wanting to. It is much like what my relationship with Shirley MacLaine has always been, except that the latter has at least been epistolary. THIS is hard-glare cold skies and related butchnesses.

        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 1 February 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    • I knew it had to be something like that, Carl — thanks for the heads-up.

      “Hard-glare cold skies” sounds like Dominic’s book. I bet he could explain Brassier to us in a way we couldn’t understand.

      Comment by john doyle — 1 February 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  25. I am glad to hear this, because now I won’t have to read a word of Brassier (never having intended to anyway)

    [Technically demanding philosophers issue collective sigh of relief.]

    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 2 February 2010 @ 3:02 am

    • For most of these, a ‘collective sigh’ as all they’re ever going to be allowed, expecially given that when they have to make social ‘nice-nice’ to their prospective patrons, it usually amounts to written exclamations of that selfsame ‘Sigh…’ or ‘jeez’…or just endless reading lists that bore the shit out of people. Although some of them do write well about Old Railway Stations and bring us ‘insights into the most popular Chinese pets’ as well as many other topics we hadn’t been familiar with before. I feel this is very helpful.

      As a technically demanding philosopher myself and one of the few uncircumcised Jews extant, I couldn’t agree more, though. After all, I was only able to turn a modest profit from sales of the leading blog-philosopher’s journal, although it led me to glory and fame in other ways. But my own severe demands have not, unfortunately, dissolved the hard-blue cold skies of an unwanted relationship with a minor minion of the sci-fi set.

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 2 February 2010 @ 10:56 am

  26. “The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works.”

    So said James Joyce, born on this date in 1882.

    Comment by john doyle — 2 February 2010 @ 6:11 am

    • Yes, Joyce would have written that, it shows the very weakness of character that Edna O’Brien said was even ‘necessary’. That’s a crock of shit, it wasn’t necessary, he just was always a beast and had gum disease like you woulnd’t even believe. Ms. O’Brien so absurd she’s upset he’s buried in Switzerland instead of Ireland (unless that detail has changed.)

      Such pompous remarks are always seized upon by students as marks of ‘the great artist’. That he was a great artist is beside the point. It was not necessary that he be the monster that Ms. O’Brien said. She just liked him that way, and has also said other things equally absurd, like ‘I am convinced that everybody knows everything about everybody’. Well, they don’t.

      Personally, I have found ‘Ulysses’ enough, and while it is masterfui as its reputation says it must be, Joyce is not greater than Faulkner nor Proust. He just ‘seems to be’ sometimes, because of the difficulty and his own hateful personal cussedness. I’m glad his ass is stuck in Switzerland, maybe it has already corrected him for his next incarnation. ‘Finnegans’ Wake’ I have no interest in whatever, that is for the masochists he take his fucking tiresome directive seriously, or those who really are in love with his work. I’m not quite in love with it, although ‘Sirens’ is pretty fantastic, as are many other sections of the book. But some of the ‘Dubliners’ are not even as good as certain New Yorker Magazine stories I’ve read. It’s just that they’re Joyce, and that’s supposed to be some kind of Gold Standard with many students (in particular). That story about the dwarf domestic who is excited about the ‘bright copper boilers’ is not nearly as good as Capote’s story ‘Miriam’, for example. Joyce developed an image as well as a great body of work, but his own line you quoted indicates how absurd an asshole he was. You should study it all of your life if you care to, and this beastly attitude attracts many masochists. I’ve never even read ‘Portrait of the Artist’, although I would have had I had time.

      I should also point out that this ‘Joyce-ism’ is ELITIST. I am so bored with the stupid usage of this word ‘elitism’, since it is never applied to literature or philosophy, only to certain forms of classical art. This is an abuse and an injustice, and a cheap self-righteous defense on the part of the philosophers and writers (most of them, not me and not nearly everybody else either), for reasons usually so silly as that ‘books are cheaper than tickets’, and ‘everybody can afford books or go to the lending library at least’, or some such populist crock as that.

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 2 February 2010 @ 11:10 am

  27. money, contracts, institutions, groups, etc., all of which aren’t material things

    Why is money always like contracts, institutions, and groups, though? Isn’t a quarter more like a bed or a chair? And a $10,000 bill may be printed on paper just like a contract, but the contract is not the paper, whereas the $10,000 bill is at least as much the paper as as only the $10,000 non-material value it has, as the bed or chair is the wood or iron? Is the $10,000 bill or the quarter at least ‘somewhat more material’ than the paper a contract is printed on? Isn’t the $10,000 bill or the quarter more like a sculpture? Or is that ‘not material’ just like the bank-note, since it’s also ‘spiritual’ or something like that? A sculpture is more material than a piece of music: It’s only the sculpture and the raw material it’s made from, just as is the quarter. The piece of music may or may not be printed, but even thought people call musical scores ‘music’ as in ‘my shelves of music’, they are not as much ‘the music’ as the ‘sculpture’, equally created by an artist, IS the sculpture, which is a material object. Or do you (or anyone else) mean only ‘raw materials are material things’. Gold is money too, and you’d call that a material thing. Or maybe you just mean ‘most money’, that a bank account is money but not material. Therefore, clothes are not material things,since they are only cotton or sheepskin.

    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 3 February 2010 @ 8:19 pm

    • QB,

      I think one obvious answer to your question is that $.25 need not be in a quarter to be $.25. It can be in zeros in ones in a computer data bank or in a ledger or in any number of other things. As a consequence, the quarter is only a representation of the money, not the money itself. I really don’t see a difference between a contract and money in this regard. Both are every bit as binding.

      I’m not suggesting that only raw materials are material things. What I’m suggesting is that there are certain types of entities that only exist as the types of entities they are within certain relational networks. Money and contracts are examples of these types of entities. A tree is not. I would not agree that gold as such is money. Gold in and of itself has no intrinsic worth. Its worth only arises in a social setting that involves labor, production, distribution, etc. A good analogy here would be to a particular sort of snail shell that regions of Africa used as money during the rise of Modernity. Europeans would collect loads of these shells and ship them over there, making a handsome profit for themselves. The shell is a material thing, but nothing about the shell itself has intrinsic worth. It’s only within the framework of a particular social structure (or relational network) that it takes on worth as a property, becoming money. Same with gold.

      Comment by larvalsubjects — 3 February 2010 @ 8:30 pm


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