Ktismatics

26 June 2008

Neither Jew Nor Greek

Filed under: Christianity — ktismatics @ 3:28 am

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (Paul, in 1 Cor. 1:22-24)

Badiou’s Saint Paul speaks to two issues I’ve been exploring recently: the relationship between law and desire in the Pauline epistles, and Paul’s idea of the “new creation.” Repeatedly in his letters Paul emphasizes that in Christ’s new creation “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” Badiou frames Paul’s assertion in terms of alternative “regimes of discourse.”

Jewish discourse is a discourse of exception, says Badiou, as spoken by the figure of the prophet. Israel is set apart from other nations, its exclusivity marked off by distinct geographic boundaries, fixed ethnicity, idiosyncratic laws, purification rites, cultic praxes. The elect status of Israel is marked by signs, miracles, declarations; the prophet is the bearer of these marks of exception. Greek discourse is cosmic… the discourse of totality; its figure is the wise man. Wisdom speaks to universal concerns and the proper ordering of nature and society, named in the ideal logos.

Paul offers neither one discourse nor the other, nor even a synthesis of the two, but rather a third and entirely new discourse:

Greek discourse bases itself in the cosmic order so as to adjust itself to it, while Jewish discourse bases itself on the exception to this order so as to turn divine transcendence into a sign. Paul’s profound idea is that Jewish discourse and Greek discourse are the two aspects of the same figure of mastery. (pp. 41-42)

The Jew can never be an exception in and of itself; it is an exception relative to the Greek. Election, miracle, and prophecy attains mastery precisely by virtue of their deviation from the universal. In complementary fashion, the Greek discourse achieves its universality by absorbing differences in a comprehensive logos; wisdom’s derives from its transcendence of the exception. Both Jew and Greek, prophet and wise man, base their mastery on the other’s discourse.

Rather than putting forward another variant of the master’s discourse, which is also a discourse of the Father, Paul presents a discourse of the Son, whose figure is neither prophet nor wise man but apostle. The apostle is not of a guarantor of truth in either its exceptional or its universal form; rather, the apostle testifies to an event — in this case, the event of the resurrection. Paul wasn’t an eyewitness to this event, nor did he accumulate evidence of its historicity. Instead, his apostleship presents an entirely subjective testimony, validated by virtue of living a life of continual participation in the event. The event to which Paul testifies is the resurrection.

For the interest of Christ’s resurrection does not lie in itself, as it would in the case of a particular, or miraculous, fact. Its genuine meaning is that it testifies to the possible victory over death, a death that Paul envisages… not in terms of facticity, but in terms of subjective disposition. Whence the necessity of constantly linking resurrection to our resurrection, of proceeding from singularity to universality and vice versa: “If the dead do not resurrect, Christ is not resurrected either. And if Christ is not resurrected, your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:16). In contrast to the fact, the event is measurable only in accordance with the universal multiplicity whose possibility it prescribes. It is in this sense that it is grace, and not history. The apostle is then he who names this possibility… His discourse is one of pure fidelity to the possibility opened by the event. (p. 45)

The master Jewish discourse achieves its legitimacy through power; the Greek, through wisdom: both stake ontological claims about the ultimate Source of mastery. But Paul, in what Badiou regards as his most radical statement, writes that “God has chosen the things that are not in order to bring to naught those that are” (1 Cor. 1:28).

One must, in Paul’s logic, go so far as to say that the Christ-event testifies that God is not the ground of Being, is not Being… That the Christ-event causes nonbeings rather than beings to arise as attesting to God; that it consists in the abolition of what all previous discourses held as existing, or being, gives a measure of the ontological subversion to which Paul’s antiphilosophy invites the declarant or militant. It is through the invention of a language wherein folly, scandal, and weakness supplant knowing reason, order, and power, and wherein non-being is the only legitimizable affirmation of being, that Christian discourse is articulated. (p. 47)

Paul regards Christ not as a mediator between the competing master discourses, nor even primarily as a mediator between what came before and what is to follow. Rather, Christ is a coming who disrupts all discourses, all before-and-after causalities. Christ is what happens to us. What happens is that we are freed from the law of the Master (the subject of the next post on Badiou’s book) in order that we might become sons. Through the event, we enter into filial equality. And we bear our filiation not in the strength of mastery but in weakness; “we bear this treasure” of the Christ-event “in earthen vessels,” Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:7.

Whoever is the subject of a truth (of love, of art, or science, or politics) knows that, in effect, he bears a treasure, that he is traversed by an infinite power. Whether or not this truth, so precarious, continues to deploy itself depends solely on this subjective weakness. Thus, one may justifiably say that he bears it only in an earthen vessel, day after day enduring the imperative — delicacy and subtle thought — to ensure that nothing shatters it. For with the vessel, and with the dissipation into smoke of the treasure it contains, it is he, the subject, the anonymous bearer, the herald, who is equally shattered. (p. 54)

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22 Comments »

  1. I know that in recent conversations you have been a bit skeptical of the “death to self” theology found in Paul (Galatians 2; “I died….it is no longer I who lives but Christ in me….”) Does Badiou’s take on the Paul’s idea of resurrection and the subjective participation in the event put new light on death to self theology? What do you see as the relationship between death to self theology and resurrection theology (opening up the possibility of participation in the event)?

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    Comment by Erdman — 26 June 2008 @ 11:32 am

  2. Btw….I am seeing that my comment has a winky smiley face on it (after the Galatians 2 reference). I did not intend this (consciously, at least).

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    Comment by Erdman — 26 June 2008 @ 11:33 am

  3. Good question about the “death to self” issue Erdman. When we read “neither Jew nor Greek” in Paul it’s tied to the death of the “old man” — the elimination of distinctions that don’t really matter in the long run. Here, though, Badiou regards both Jew and Greek as ways of assigning the subject to a category that defines him: exceptional communitarian identity for the Jew, universal generic identity for the Greek. In both cases the subject is already dead in the sense that identity is lost in the collective. Whoever Jesus was as a man, he dies by the collusion of both of these collectivizations as represented by the Jewish and Roman leaders’ conspiracy.

    But the resurrection opens up a different possibility: that of being a subject who rises from the ashes of dead collective identification. It’s what Badiou calls the possibility of subjectivation, of becoming a subject after the collective identity of Jew and/or Greek has been swept away. So to participate in the Christ event isn’t to lose oneself as a subject, because that’s what already was the case by identifying oneself as Jew or Greek. Rather, participating in Christ subjectively is to emerge at last as a subject underdetermined by sociocultural identity.

    Now if Paul stopped there he’d be a spokesman for neoliberal individualism, setting oneself apart from all collectives and coming into fullness as a separate self. But this isn’t an individualistic resurrection — it’s a resurrection to love for one another, to brotherhood with one another, to being coworkers together. There is never a sense of individualism either in the Jew/Greek cultural determinism nor in the resurrection. It’s a matter of becoming subjects together.

    The other aspect of “death to self,” and maybe the one we usually think about, is the ascetic self-denial intended to beat one’s appetites into subjection to the will or the mind or the spirit. This I think Paul has no use for. E.g., in Colossians 2 he dismisses the “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” self-denial practices as being pointless. He doesn’t really offer a better way of crushing the appetites; rather, he just seems to act as if it’s not all that important. After all, this is a resurrected life, not a disembodied one, that the Christ-event is pointing to. This is related to the “dead to the law” discourse too I think: it’s not that he’s offering a more effective way of combating sin so much as saying that it’s just not worth worrying about in light of the possibilities of resurrection life.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 26 June 2008 @ 1:38 pm

  4. I like Badiou’s thought that what we bear demands that it be not corrupted but remain pure. When we compromise, we lose not only the precious deposit but also the new self that had borne it. It is very close to some of Paul’s own thinking though I’m not sure that this is what Paul had in mind with his ‘dying to self’, where the old self reasserts itself to the detriment of the new. For Paul, the old self really does have to be put to death before the resurrected life can begin.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 27 June 2008 @ 4:32 am

  5. “For Paul, the old self really does have to be put to death before the resurrected life can begin.”

    I disagree Sam. The “Christ event” is bipolar: both death and resurrection simultaneously rather than sequentially. The vitality of resurrection is pre-eminent, not the project of self-denial. It’s not death to self that’s the issue for Paul, but rather death to the “old man.” One of the old man’s concerns is collective identity: Jew versus Greek. Another of the old man’s concerns is purging himself of sin and corruption, which often as not involves ascetic self-denial. Paul will have no part of it. Don’t get obsessed by self-denial or following laws, Paul says, because these practices aren’t really much different from self-absorption and transgressing laws: two sides of the same old coin. Get rid of it and switch to the new coin: freedom, spirit, love, working together, creating a dwelling-place of God on earth, etc. So death to the old man and life in the new man are two alternative paradigms for living in the world. The old doesn’t gradually transform itself into the new or atrophy so that the true new self can shine forth in all its glory — that whole scheme is old-man thinking.

    I’ve been writing a series of posts at OST that talks about old/new man in Paul, mostly with the intent of debunking Andrew’s micro/macrocosm fascistic interpretation of Christianity, where the Christians are the super-race who are destined to replace the rest of us, culminating in a final ecstatic act of global genocide perpetrated by God and his army. Maybe I should bring those posts over here. But there will always be an irresolvable conflict in my reading of these texts because, like Badiou, I believe that both God and the resurrection event are imaginary.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 27 June 2008 @ 4:50 am

  6. I probably did not express myself precisely enough but I actually largely agree with you. Is the process of dying to the old ongoing, despite having been buried with Christ etc? The ‘old man’ tends to hang around and interfere with the new, and that’s the theme of Rom 7, but as Rom 8 declares emphatically, that’s over and done with.

    I’m not too sure about the being/non-being interpretation. I don’t think Paul is nihilistic, though the fact of dying and rising may look like that. Paul is not negating (2 Cor?) so much as he is asking for a refocusing on to others through following Jesus rather than a focus on ‘what’s in it for ME’. Dying to self certainly does not fit in to this scheme as a process that we should be actively involved with making happen, it is rather the result of focusing exclusively on the new life ‘in Christ’ “freedom, spirit, love, working together, creating a dwelling-place of God on earth, etc.”

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    Comment by samlcarr — 27 June 2008 @ 7:03 am

  7. I had a nice long reply going but I hit a couple of keys and the whole thing slipped instantly into non-being. I’ll try to bring it back.

    “I don’t think Paul is nihilistic”

    I agree, and I’d say Badiou does too. The contrast isn’t between being and non-being but between being and event. (Being and Event is the title of Badiou’s big systematic philosophy.) The Jewish and Greek master discourses are discourses of being: God IS powerful, God IS wise, etc. So too is communitarian identity a matter of being: I AM Hebrew/Greek/etc. Badiou sees Paul as apostle not of being but of event. It’s hard to talk about event to people mired in the “old man” mindset of being without sounding like you’re talking about non-being. Badiou says in his other book that the event always takes place “on the edge of the void.” The event brings radical rupture into being, slicing through it on the diagonal as it were. Event introduces something unprecedented for which the old ontological categories no longer hold and for which new categories haven’t yet been thought.

    So if we think about self in the context of event, the first words that come to mind are non-self, death to self, etc. But if the self participates in event, or becomes an evental site, then we can start talking about self as a force of radical disruption of the status quo, of “deterritorialization” in Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology. I don’t think about who and what I AM: nationality, personality, identity, etc. I think about being an agent and site of evental disruption. The event is always local, but it can usher into some new discovery or creation of universal import. So the event is a portal passing through the void into a resurrected being in which the old categories are dead and the new ones are taking shape. And the evental self too is a portal, a channel of continual death and resurrection. Something like that.

    This post should be read in the context of my prior Why Saint Paul post, as well as this quote from Badiou’s book which formerly graced the upper left corner of Ktismatics:

    Black homosexuals, disabled Serbs, Catholic pedophiles, moderate Muslims, married priests, ecologist yuppies, the submissive unemployed, prematurely aged youth! Each time, a social image authorizes new products, specialized magazines, improved shopping malls, ‘free’ radio stations, targeted advertising networks, and finally, heady ‘public debates’ at peak viewing times. Deleuze put it perfectly: capitalist deterritorialization requires a constant reterritorialization.

    Identitarian politics turns into market segmentation while resisting universal disruptive changes that might benefit everyone. Badiou is looking for an evental politics focused less on who we ARE than on what radically disruptive EVENT might overturn what is and pave the way toward what has never yet been.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 27 June 2008 @ 8:10 am

  8. That’s anarchic and I entirely and wholeheartedly agree. I think my confusion arose partly from his use of Lacanian types of terminology or concepts. The list is very similar to the kinds of categories of folks that Jesus seems to have found both fascinating and redemptive – and something that seems to not have shown up so much with Paul, perhaps because Paul was ‘outcaste’ himself?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 27 June 2008 @ 10:23 am

  9. I wasn’t as complete/clear in my prior explanations. More Lacanian concepts to come in the next installment I expect.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 27 June 2008 @ 1:08 pm

  10. Ktismatics: In both cases the subject is already dead in the sense that identity is lost in the collective….But the resurrection opens up a different possibility: that of being a subject who rises from the ashes of dead collective identification……But this isn’t an individualistic resurrection — it’s a resurrection to love for one another, to brotherhood with one another, to being coworkers together.

    That’s been a good deal of my struggle with popular Christianity. Most of it seems primarily focussed on achieving “the good life” of god through identification with the community. In the spirit of Don Adams from Get Smart, it’s the old we-are-better-than-them trick.

    As I wrote in one of my recent posts, my struggles of faith have had to do with stripping my self away from forms of religious assurance that rely on association with a particular religious group and examining to see what substance remains. For me, unfortunately, it hasn’t been much. The purity of the vision that Jesus and Paul lays out is one of power and supernatural change. Not power in a dominating over the other sense, of course, but power in a transformative sense.

    K: Identitarian politics turns into market segmentation while resisting universal disruptive changes that might benefit everyone. Badiou is looking for an evental politics focused less on who we ARE than on what radically disruptive EVENT might overturn what is and pave the way toward what has never yet been.

    So, various groups within Christendom compete for market share. They compete against each other; each promising a better, more god-pleasing life. The smallest, most pious group, the most obscure branch of “purist” Christians who claim they reject such commercialization then appears to be little more than the group grabbing up a small little niche market. They end up being just the same as all the others: we’ve got the answer to the god-life.

    K, you said, “But there will always be an irresolvable conflict in my reading of these texts because, like Badiou, I believe that both God and the resurrection event are imaginary.” I think that most of popular level Christianity in its various forms also holds to an imaginary god and an imaginary resurrection. That is, it often seems as though any god will due to suffice in building a cult to identify one with. For example, there is mental assent to the resurrection of Christ. We preach it until we are blue in the face, but we are certainly lacking in the resurrection power. Paul’s claim seems clear: the same power that raised Jesus raised God from the dead with is at work in you. If resurrection power is not evident in the lives of a Christian community, then their belief in a historical resurrection of Christ is no more than a fairy tale that they happen to accept as fact; but in this case it is little more than an argument over whether or not there was a “real” Peter Pan or not. Paul’s concern was not with the historical reality of the resurrection as an end to itself but rather with a certain power attached to the resurrection….and that’s been my personal struggle….without the transformative resurrection power at work in my life, then what’s the point of belief in a historical resurrection….

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    Comment by Erdman — 28 June 2008 @ 11:37 am

  11. without the transformative resurrection power at work in my life, then what’s the point of belief in a historical resurrection….

    Yes, but there really IS no ‘mental assent’. It’s traditional and by now more like a superstition. If you really did believe in a historical resurrection, you would have ‘transformative resurrection power at work in your life’, because that resurrection would never have stopped. There are plenty of recent texts in which Jesus claims never to have died. In that case, he really did ‘save us from our sins’. NOT! Because it ought to work retroactively too, but all the history in between the crucifixion/resurrection moment would osmehow need to be ignored or his ‘continued living due to the resurrection’ ought to have transformed more events than just produced christianculturalproduct, or so it seems that there should have more than just beautiful symbols like cathedrals, Bach oratorios, etc. And these very culturalproducts attest to the continuation of what was going on pre-Christ: People still used art as a solution to the frequently intolerable and often deadly aspects of life, and they had already been doing this. On the other hand, the large numbers of people who cry out that God is deader now than in even in the medieval period have yet to prove–and this includes Adorno and Derrida–that art and any other palliative might not ‘help’ in the face of dreadful occurrences like Holocaust, after which all critiques were supposed to ‘stink’, and as per Adorno, ‘even the critique of Auschwitz stinks.’ This is impressive world-class hand-wringing and proves allegiance with deep shame, but it has not stopped art nor any other positive aspects of human life, just because telecommunications has made it possible to see a greater collection of photographed miseries at any one time.That there was some need for the religion of Christianity is hardly in doubt, though. But it was obviously yet another in a series of things before it and that continue after it when it’s over. But even if someone really thinks they believe in the resurrection, it is not a historic event within the same realm as Hiroshima or 9/11. Belief in the resurrection could, however, mean some more subtle continuity through two centuries of something uniquely embodied by Jesus as this extremely enlightened being. The Buddhists do that, and alas there are some other religions that have central figures whose every word they hang on as the other religions appear to decompose. It’s strange for someone like me to see the strugglings of people with their religious faiths, although I’ve thought I was doing it too. But living in the world itself could never be discounted, and to get a decent synthesis, I have found that the truth of the good life includes not only virtue as exemplified by the great religious masters, but all the idolatry that they abhor (while proliferating vast amounts of idolatry in their own names and blaming it on everyone else), which ends up with a kind of polytheism of gods of all sorts: There are the gods of money, power, family, pleasure, education, humility, prestige, ambition, intelligence, you name it, and don’t know any of them till you’ve tried all of them, or they’ll all rear their heads, ugly or pretty, and make sure none of them are left out.

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 28 June 2008 @ 2:40 pm

  12. don’t know any of them till you’ve tried all of them, or they’ll all rear their heads, ugly or pretty, and make sure none of them are left out.

    should read ‘don’t knock any of them till you’ve tried all of them’

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 28 June 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  13. “without the transformative resurrection power at work in my life, then what’s the point of belief in a historical resurrection”

    Erdman, that’s how Badiou interprets Paul’s discourse as well. Commercializing the Christ event would feature visible miracles and personal testimonials to “the resurrection power at work in my life” — which is what you observe in practice among the evangelical leadership. You might say that the historical marketing of Christ set the pattern for all subsequent ad campaigns: every product offers the resurrection life to whoever buys it. Here’s the quote at the beginning of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle:

    But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence… illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness. (from Feuerbach, Preface to the second edition of The Essence of Christianity)

    In the Book of Acts Paul looks more like he’s running this sort of marketing spectacle, but in his own writings he avoids this approach. He spends no time trying to prove the historicity of the resurrection, nor does he build Jesus’s legendary heroic status by talking about the incarnation. He doesn’t even quote Jesus’s wise sayings — as Badiou points out, discipleship to the wise man is a Greek paradigm, like Plato to Socrates. It seems to me that Paul only gestures toward what the resurrection life is like. Maybe it’s ineffable and undescribable in words, so the only thing to be said is what the resurrection is not: neither the law nor self-indulgence, neither Jew nor Greek, neither wisdom nor power, etc. But that’s marketing strategy too isn’t it — I can’t tell you about the product; you have to experience it for yourself — mystification and fetishizing.

    I think Paul can’t describe participation in the resurrection life more clearly because he sees it as a force of immanence in individual and collective life. For Paul it’s only just now taking shape, and he doesn’t really know where it’s headed. What happens when you die to the law and to the desires instilled by prohibition? What happens when you no longer identify yourself with your ethnic group, your nation, your status in the social hierarchy, your gender role? What happens when you’re motivated by love for one another? What if you’re not interested in building yet another institutional power to compete with Israel or Rome? Paul doesn’t really know because it hasn’t happened yet and there’s no architectural drawings to work from.

    You could make a case from Paul’s writings that, as a result of the resurrection event, everyone got pulled through the portal and into participation in the resurrection life, whether they realize it or not. E.g., this from 2 Corinthians 5:

    For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God

    Paul’s job then is to let people know what’s already happening to them and the world, so they can actively participate in the new creation rather than ignoring or resisting it. Maybe the Christ event changed human life from what it had been before, and we can’t see it because we’ve always lived on this side of the divide. This is a sort of scifi treatment, where the Christ event is the singularity and we can’t really project ourselves back to what it must have been like to be human before the singularity happened. I.e., maybe we’re all already living the resurrection life: this is it. So it was exciting for Paul because he lived through the transition across the singularity event, he still has memories of what it used to be like to be human in the old creation, can see people walking around who still don’t get what’s happened to them, etc. I’m not sure if that version would be inspiring or dispiriting.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 June 2008 @ 5:48 am

  14. “And these very culturalproducts attest to the continuation of what was going on pre-Christ: People still used art as a solution to the frequently intolerable and often deadly aspects of life, and they had already been doing this.”

    So this is the argument against the “Christ-event singulary” I just outlined: no tangible evidence that human life changed qualitatively from before to after the resurrection. There’s no way to know for sure of course, but it’s possible that Paul’s understanding of resurrection life ushered in a new kind of human subjectivity that’s freed from predefined collective identities based on nationality, gender, class, etc. Previously a person was so overdetermined by these rigid categories that the only escape was death. And that’s how Paul talks about it: consider yourself dead to these things, not for the sake of ascetic self-denial but to live in freedom from these historico-cultural constraints. In this light Paul’s discourse on new creation and resurrection life becomes a manifesto for post-structuralism.

    “There are the gods of money, power, family, pleasure, education, humility, prestige, ambition, intelligence, you name it, and don’t knock any of them till you’ve tried all of them, or they’ll all rear their heads, ugly or pretty, and make sure none of them are left out.”

    Speaking of manifestos, here’s the Hedonist Manifesto. There are evident commonalities between hedonism and Paul’s resurrection life. Patrick, you sound like a spokesman for a culturally refined hedonism that’s long been practiced by the elite even if they don’t have any money to indulge their exquisite tastes. The idle rich are often mired in anhedonic ennui, and so they surround themselves by aesthetes and sensualists in order to keep themselves amused. The exchange is an equitable one I’m sure. On the other hand, you also present a kind of warning, that the pleasures offered by these other idols derive part of their power from attempts to repress them. This too is a Pauline thought, which Lacan and others have latched onto. Are the forbidden pleasures enhanced or diminished when the sense of naughtiness and guilt are done away with?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 June 2008 @ 6:32 am

  15. Very dispiriting! If this is ‘it’ then I want more and I’m with the Erdman, very disappointed. But somehow, though an interesting theory (that everything has already changed) I think it’s more likely a case of ‘here’s the choice’ only the content has become really garbled, more so by the evangelical/reformed approach into something that Paul certainly would not recognise as following Christ, much less being “in Christ”.

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    Comment by Sam L. Carr — 29 June 2008 @ 7:20 am

  16. “On the other hand, you also present a kind of warning, that the pleasures offered by these other idols derive part of their power from attempts to repress them.”

    “Yes, but that wasn’t really the emphasis, which was that these earthly things are nevertheless there along with whatever resurrection-idea one has or hasn’t got revved up–and this goes whether or not one is actively cultivating them. It’s more along the lines of Hegel’s unhappy consciousness, which every extremely religious holy man is stuck with unless he goes out and does the Desert Fathers number, in which case there’s a lot of heat to be dealt with and such matters as allowing oneself only a sip of water every few hours and meditating on the wonderful difficulty of tolerating a dry mouth instead of quenching one’s thirst. I think they did some weaving of palm leaves or something to, BUT…then some of them got to split the Desert Circuit and go to the Big Town and be some sort of bishop; in this case, they might as well have just signed up with an agent, for all the protection their souls had by then. I mean–they were even forced to see obscene people occasionally appear on the streets to great acclaim, and they were not, in all cases, able to entreat with them and persuade them to live a life of sparse baths, because why should anyone be so vain as to wish to be in a body-odour-free space for more than an hour or so a week? So that with the Hegel, you’re still stuck with dealing with all the physical realities while denying that they have any importance at all; and those that try to do this denial do not usually prove anything except that their handling of the physical realities can be poorly done.

    “This too is a Pauline thought, which Lacan and others have latched onto. Are the forbidden pleasures enhanced or diminished when the sense of naughtiness and guilt are done away with?”

    Is a good eggplant parmigiana (such as I made last night) any the less superb for not being forbidden. I personally think I could live with any number of restrictions being lifted without suffering any less titillation, I am quite sure. For there are certain things so forbidden and yet so harmless that I can NOT do them if I am not yet demented: To wit, there are police!

    “Patrick, you sound like a spokesman for a culturally refined hedonism that’s long been practiced by the elite even if they don’t have any money to indulge their exquisite tastes”

    Obviously, I could hardly proclaim it more loudly, but I could refine it still more to the disgust of some, to whom I apologize in advance. So that when I’ve had the money to indulge in ‘exquisite tastes’, I’ve done so but somehow ended up less punished than most because I’ve never been interested in overt wastefulness which I find asinine; and the times of less money have then not been less than the times of plenty of luxurious money, because I would strive for a similarly luxurious sensation without spending a cent, e.g., having listened to perhaps 70 CD’s of classical music in the last 3 months as well perhaps 25 opera DVD’s watched has cost me precisely $0, since I got them all from the public library (one might as well join the Communists in some of their public works projects), I have replicated a sense of luxury and abundance which has had no effect on my bank account at all, and has infinitely enriched my knowledge of Schumann (right this moment), Britten, Tippett, Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Kiri TeKanawa (the world’s perfect beauty in form of woman), Schubert, Franz Berwald (Swedish, time of Schubert), only to find that all this music energizes me to all sorts of physical and mental endeavour. Of course, if desire implies a ‘lack’, I don’t spend a lot of time on worrying about such things, since I have nothing against stimulation, nor any interest in ascetism since I’m more polite when I’m sated.

    But as Lady Bracknell says in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ of her nephew Algernon Moncrieff, to Cecily Cardew, whom he wants to marry: “Algernon looks everything and has nothing! What MORE could you want?” That’s more the classic stereotype, and probably was most cultivated in the Victorian and Edwardian periods in England, this man of leisure. Although he was being ridiculed here, because Algernon really does seem little more than a cream puff. By the way, the real bon vivant of the upper classes is not interested in ‘refined taste cultivation’, but can only be satisfied WITH waste, viz., such things as gambling and even whoring has to have no end in sight: This sort of thing is not something that has any attraction to me personally, because it depends on the activities being essentially useless, to the degree that they really must not even seem esthetic, but the false and unearned right of the highborn (including even if stupid.)

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 29 June 2008 @ 9:31 am

  17. The other night we watched Marie Antoinette, which didn’t even luxuriate in the high-class decadences of Versailles. Kirsten Dunst in the lead role was just a nice bland girl, and by the end she and Louis XVI were like an old married couple watching sitcoms on TV. What a bore, though very prettily rendered.

    Hegel is a resurrection theorist, where the split between action and sentience is eventually resolved eschatologically in the end of history. The master-bondsman discourse is all about achieving mastery by acting as if you were already dead, as if you held your own life in such disregard that you could play chicken with anyone and always expect to win. This macho pose has become familiar to us in all heroic movies, presumably intended to persuade the spectators that they are JUST LIKE THAT and so they don’t need to prove it by taking any particularly flagrant risks.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 June 2008 @ 11:57 am

  18. It might be amusing to explore the various dystopic visions predicated on resurrection gone bad. Frankenstein is about the horror of technology turning us all into machines, yet the monster himself is animated by the most sensitive possible romantic soul. Dracula is the Eastern aristocratic aesthete, sexually ambiguous, possibly Jewish (Bela Lugosi wore a Jewish star as part of his cosstume), sucking the life out of England, polluting it with the plague. Then there are the zombies — no pleasure, no personality, no beauty, moving in mindless hordes, consuming us, turning us into mindless consumers. This seems like a worthy project for Traxus and the culturemonkey boys.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 29 June 2008 @ 12:09 pm

  19. K: discipleship to the wise man is a Greek paradigm, like Plato to Socrates. It seems to me that Paul only gestures toward what the resurrection life is like. Maybe it’s ineffable and undescribable in words, so the only thing to be said is what the resurrection is not: neither the law nor self-indulgence, neither Jew nor Greek, neither wisdom nor power, etc. But that’s marketing strategy too isn’t it — I can’t tell you about the product; you have to experience it for yourself — mystification and fetishizing.

    But if this “product” is set in the context of freedom, then it ceases to be a marketing strategy, because the freedom of the individual is unpredictable, right? A marketed product is always meant to be purchased or consumed in some way so as to bring capital to the seller (monetary or otherwise). Freedom seems to break through such economy.

    K: You could make a case from Paul’s writings that, as a result of the resurrection event, everyone got pulled through the portal and into participation in the resurrection life, whether they realize it or not.

    Paul’s job then is to let people know what’s already happening to them and the world, so they can actively participate in the new creation rather than ignoring or resisting it.

    Good point.

    Sam: I think it’s more likely a case of ‘here’s the choice’ only the content has become really garbled, more so by the evangelical/reformed approach into something that Paul certainly would not recognise as following Christ, much less being “in Christ”.

    Another good point.

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    Comment by Erdman — 30 June 2008 @ 9:51 am

  20. K: It might be amusing to explore the various dystopic visions predicated on resurrection gone bad. Frankenstein is about the horror of technology turning us all into machines, yet the monster himself is animated by the most sensitive possible romantic soul.

    The 21st century re-play of Frankenstein is that humanity has become mechanized and our machines have become humanized. So, we’re not sure where the line is, anymore. The definition of “human” and “machine” seems random.

    On a popular level, the corporate advertisers would prefer to re-write the ending: the human-machine merger retains the best (most romantic) elements of the human spirit while enhancing and amplifying it. So, keep buying the ipods, drinking the energy drinks, lifting and tucking your flesh, and wearing the newest, technologically advanced Nike shoes. Frankenstein’s creation, after all, could have been the next Über-mensch, provided he had a better plastic surgeon, spent a Saturday at the day spa, and had a generous gift card to the Gap.

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    Comment by Erdman — 30 June 2008 @ 10:01 am

  21. “Freedom seems to break through such economy.”

    You’ll agree I’m sure, Erdman, even without undue cynicism, that if some noun or adjective appeals to a significant market sector, the economy will find a place for it on the showroom floor. Freedom panty hose. Automobiles sell freedom. Southwest Airlines is a big carrier around here: the ad slogan is “You are now free to move about the country.” Freedom™ is like the marketing slogan of America itself, and GWBush invokes it constantly when selling wars, surveillance programs, torture chambers, etc. Freedom fries — a good name for prime-time electrocutions, the next wave of reality TV?

    “The definition of “human” and “machine” seems random.”

    I remember your talking about this on your blog awhile back. This is going to be the next singularity after the bodily resurrection, when we can download the contents of our minds and implant them in robots, clones, maybe an eternal series of clones, maybe several clones at the same time… It’s going to take a lot of money to clone yourself though, I bet. On the movie scene, Boris Karloff did exude some pathos as the Frankenstein monster, but the movies never give the monster his full depth as written by Mary Shelley. And you’re right about his needing an extreme makeover.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 June 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  22. Yes, I do agree. Yet it seems as though freedom becomes “conformity” as soon as it becomes a commodity. There is no such thing as freedom in the marketplace….of course, that begs the question of whether there is such a thing as freedom, at all, because there seems to be no corner on earth where we escape the “invisible hand.”

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    Comment by Erdman — 30 June 2008 @ 2:38 pm


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