Ktismatics

20 July 2009

“You Don’t Know Me”

Filed under: Psychology — ktismatics @ 8:42 am

I was walking around the pond this morning when I saw another guy approaching. “Don’t I know you?” I asked the guy, but then I corrected myself: “No, I guess I don’t.” “No, I guess not,” the guy agreed. This was all a little joke: he was wearing a t-shirt that read “You Don’t Know Me.”

If I spent some time “getting to know” this guy, would it be a futile undertaking inasmuch we can never really know anyone? Even if he took great pains to reveal things about himself to me, and even if I concentrated intently on understanding him, would our efforts be for naught because his true self would always retreat from interaction into unassailable hermetic isolation? If I were to enter into a relationship with this guy, would I come to know only his relational properties in our little dyad, with those properties bearing possibly no connection with his properties as an individual or as dyadic participant with someone else?

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26 Comments »

  1. Kt: “If I spent some time “getting to know” this guy, would it be a futile undertaking inasmuch we can never really know anyone?”

    Kvond: It seems that getting to know someone is getting to a place where you can tell that kind or quality of the thing that will happen with them, what is coming. And with interesting people, the kind of impossibility of knowing that.

    Like

    Comment by kvond — 22 July 2009 @ 9:36 am

  2. Hi John,

    Is it really you?

    “If I were to enter into a relationship with this guy, would I come to know only his relational properties in our little dyad, with those properties bearing possibly no connection with his properties as an individual or in dyadic relationship with someone else?”

    No, because that dyadic relationship is not isolated.

    “his true self”

    Well, what exactly would you like to know?

    There would be so much of his life that you wouldn’t know because you haven’t lived it. Does that mean you lack of knowledge about his “true” self?

    “You don’t know me,” said the madonna to her son, said the father to his son, said the son to his father, “Why have you forsaken me? (You don’t know me?)”, and the man to woman: “Don’t you know me?”

    Mmm. Knowledge is a terrible thing. We’re all too knowable. Perhaps we only realise it too late.

    Imagine if you tried to get to know someone and they started off by saying, “Okay, yeah, why not? But you should know that no one can really ever know me.”

    You know something about them that they don’t: that they’re guileless, and an egoist. Like a lot of people.

    Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow KNOWS!

    Like

    Comment by NB — 22 July 2009 @ 9:52 am

  3. I agree with these observations, kvond and NB: there’s at least some knowledge possible of the other. Of course, for those who’ve been following along with the speculative realism discussions, the non-realist correlationists question whether knowledge of the real anything is possible, that everything is mediated by perception and cognition. Harman the realist isn’t that different here: he contends that real things have properties, but that we never have direct access to the properties of anything else. Kvond, your “knowing what is coming” puts you in a sort of pragmistist-correlationist camp, yes? — that you can know what effects the other is likely to produce in the world based on prior experience.

    I feel some urge to explore the Harman theory in greater detail with respect to human objects, though I’m not quite sure why.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 22 July 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  4. The Egyptian temptress is suffering from rabies, haven’t you heard, Eloise; she’s already mutilated half the German shepherd population of Cairo, and now she’s getting ready to bite into Labrador-objects. She’s a bit like the inverse of Jack Nicholson’s character in WOLF that way.

    Anyhow she’s protected her twitter updates just when I was getting ready to become her very own Twitter Voice of Parody Reason. This surrounds the whole business with even more mystique and elitist exclusivity.

    I think Kvond is just as turned on by Dr. Sinthome’s straightforward good Texan looks and this is the reason he DEPLORES the doctor as much as he does.

    Like

    Comment by Dejan — 23 July 2009 @ 3:04 am

  5. There’s no question that Graham’s personal presence increases the affective investment of the audience members, drawing us into the ideas more deeply. This is where the vampire business holds true: affect fuels intellectual engagement. In reading some of the old k-punk it seems that Mark regarded libidinal energy as something to be overcome in pursuit of cold posthuman reason. I can see why Graham too would disavow distinctively human libidinal energy. On the other hand, his object-world is riven with forces of allure and domination and alliance “all the way down.” There’s nothing unique about distinctly about human attraction/repulsion provoking vicarious interactions: it happens even among subatomic particles.

    From the human interaction side of things in the Harmaniac universe: in one dyad I might release some of my nice-guy notes into the interactive plasm, whereas in another dyad I release some of my asshole notes. Both nice-guy and asshole notes are somehow part of who I am, but they’re never encountered directly as part of the “true me.” Rather, they’re encountered vicariously, inside the molten dyadic plasm, where they’re transformed into characteristics of the dyad as a separate merged object. My essential personal nice-guy and asshole qualities retreat from the interpersonal encounter into my hermetic core.

    I see some merit in this Harmaniac universe. It acknowledges that I do indeed have nice-guy and asshole notes IN MYSELF, but that these notes can only be encountered by another in the context of relationship. The non-realists think so too, but Harman doesn’t privilege the distinctly human Correlation: it’s just a subtype of every interaction, human, subhuman, or posthuman. On the other hand, I’m unclear about the connection between the essential notes of the object and the way they present themselves vicariously inside the interaction. Either Harman isn’t clear or I didn’t pay enough attention to this part of his Guerrilla book. I.e., there’s something true and essential about my niceguy/asshole notes, but are they different in some completely inaccessible way from how they manifest themselves in relationship? Analogously in a nonhuman context, in what ways are the essential hard-surface notes of a polished wooden floor different from the way they manifest themselves in relationship to light (a reflective surface), sound (reflective again), shoes (slippery) and furniture (weight-bearing)?

    “Straightforward good Texan looks”

    Based on his recent photo gallery presentation that’s not how I’d describe Dr. S. But hey, maybe those are the notes his photo releases to you, Dejan.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 23 July 2009 @ 7:57 am

  6. “There’s nothing unique about distinctly about human attraction/repulsion provoking vicarious interactions: it happens even among subatomic particles.”

    I agree with this.

    “but they’re never encountered directly as part of the “true me.” … My essential personal nice-guy and asshole qualities retreat from the interpersonal encounter into my hermetic core … I’m unclear about the connection between the essential notes of the object and the way they present themselves vicariously inside the interaction.”

    Well, I suppose this is why I don’t really understand object-oriented philosophy / speculative realism. If they’re essentially unknowable – I mean completely – how does one know if they even exist.

    The qualities of being human are shared but the experience is unique. Is the attempt to experience that unique experience a kind of love and jealousy? I just don’t know.

    I see a man clutching at a rock and shouting at it, “What are you?! What are you really?!!” And the rock remains mute. Speak, mountains!

    He should ask a geologist.

    “You don’t know what it’s like for me!” I know what it’s like for you, but I don’t know what it is for you.

    Like

    Comment by NB — 23 July 2009 @ 9:31 am

  7. K-punk and the Temptress often sound like that sub-genre of 1990s electro, Gregorian pop or something (remember that song Sadeness by Enigma). The sort of stuff they used to play in annexed Slovenlia. Now in The Temptress’s case I can understand why she would want to hide her bulging frog eyes from the merciless spotlight of celebrity, preferring to invest her libido in endless blawgery. After all, on a provost salary, she can certainly afford it.

    Anycase I much prefer our brunches at Eloise’s , where we spin intricate electronic embroideries out of culture and gossip.

    Like

    Comment by Dejan — 23 July 2009 @ 11:32 am

  8. “If they’re essentially unknowable – I mean completely – how does one know if they even exist.”

    Maybe that’s what makes the theory “speculative.” Harman and Sinthome continually emphasize the distinction between the real and KNOWING the real, that spec realism is talking about the latter rather than the former. It’s at this point that my interest in Harman’s theory shifts from science to fiction. I’m not so interested in “realistic” fiction that attempts to capture some aspect of the everyday. Rather, I prefer fiction that opens a speculative window into an alternate reality. The alternate reality may occupy an entirely different physical universe, or it may be superimposed on the universe as we ordinarily experience it. If I can read Harman’s metaphysics as a speculative act of creation rather than knowledge/discovery, then I’m prepared to spend more time exploring it. When I read Harman’s stuff I have the same sense as when reading the medieval theologians talking about transubstantiation versus consubstantiation and so on: really entertaining speculations whether or not they can be systematically verified or falsified. I can’t quite tell whether Harman regards his own speculative work as occupying this sort of fictional creative realm or whether he believes he’s actually describing the way things are. It’s an intriguing set of concepts and metaphors regardless.

    “I know what it’s like for you, but I don’t know what it is for you.”

    I believe this too, NB. I think this is especially likely in the human sphere of knowledge: we are all members of the same class of objects after all, so we surely share some very similar properties amongst ourselves. It’s quite clear that the individual human doesn’t develop his qualities in hermetic isolation — that we learn to be individuals largely through our interactions with one another, to know ourselves through our experiences of others, and so on. So the hermetic isolation of the individual human object seems overstated based on the way each of us comes to occupy our own selves.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 23 July 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  9. If anything, Dr. Zamalek seems even more eager to display himself than does Dr. Sinthome. Neither of them, however, has exhibited the sheer narcissistic effrontery of actually displaying YouTube movies of himself on his own blog.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 23 July 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  10. “Maybe that’s what makes the theory ‘speculative.'”

    Ha. Okay, point taken. My body is made of sand … maybe. I also take your point about SR maybe being a creative act. I’m all for alternate realities too – but they must have some element of the understanable surely. What does the best science fiction do? Only warp “reality” as we think we know it – because it must have some bearing on our reality as we know it, if only to critique it.

    “Harman and Sinthome continually emphasize the distinction between the real and KNOWING the real, that spec realism is talking about the latter rather than the former.”

    Now this does confuse me. I don’t understand the difference between knowing the real and the real as it is… Unless maybe one means the experiential – existential maybe – content of an object’s “life” compared to our knowledge about it ie: I know what’s like for you but I don’t know what it IS for you. Isn’t this just reheated Kant? The difference between being and (often mistaken) knowledge about it, noumena and phenomena. If we maintain that there must be something to know about the always essentially unknowable – being itself rather than knowledge about it – what is there to be said about it? What can be said about it? What is there to say about a rock other than it is a rock? If you sat on it, you could say it was a seat. Where is it’s secret life in itself?

    As far as consubstantiation and transubstantiation go, well, I’m not a theologian…as you’ll see! I tried once to understand the latter as the incarnation of truth being central to Catholic belief (the infallability of the Pope etc). God was once incarnated as Christ the Son. The blessing of the wine and wafer repeats this. It literally is the Blood of Christ for a believer. If you’re a believer but don’t believe in the tansformation of wine into Christ’s blood, then what are you doing believing in God anyway. If you believe that God shed his blood for us then the wine is a physical reminder of that belief. As blessed wine, it IS the blood of Christ. A kind of literal metaphor (contradiction in terms, I know … but that’s religion for you!).

    Like

    Comment by NB — 24 July 2009 @ 2:29 am

  11. Eloise I think NB is asking the right question in this context – after all, lest I can transform into a pebble, what’s in it for me, as a human, in this New Age animism, how exactly do I profit spiritually and emotionally from knowing that the pebble, too, has an inscrutable soul. I can understand why this proposition would be used as a vehicle to get away from the human-centredness of Continental philosophy, but Deleuze already went in that direction before Harman, what’s the Temptress’s unique deal here, other than profiting on her nerdiness? I think the Temptress scores more on her clever journalistic style of writing, I guess I’d rather read something called PRINCE OF NETWORKS than DIFFERENCE AND GIVENNESS, but that’s a media issue, not a philosophic one.

    Patricia Elitist-Bextor told me that Prop O Ghandi is the worst book she ever read, but I think she was just being mean because we didn’t invite her to the De Palma brunch.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 24 July 2009 @ 7:02 am

  12. “What does the best science fiction do? Only warp “reality” as we think we know it”

    What if, instead of trying to link up Harman’s theory with the ordinary world of our experience, we were to focus on the parts that DON’T match up? E.g., suppose there’s some massive difference between our experience of something/someone and who/what it really is? A fictional narrator could speculate on what that hidden essence might be like. Or it could continually appear as a haunting of ordinary experience, an uncanny sense of a spectral other always hidden beneath the surface but animating everything we experience, animating each of the characters, maybe even animating the narrator himself. This sort of science fiction might feel even weirder than the usual allegorical approach. It wouldn’t even need to be set on some other planet.

    Somehow I don’t think this is what Harman quite has in mind. However, if anything he’s less skeptical about the relationships between the phenomena of experience and the real than are most continental philosophers. Most of Meillassoux’s After Finitude describes the various ways in which the big names — Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc. — have argued that what we humans can know of the world may have no relation whatsoever to what the world is really. Harman, though, says that he can describe something of what the real is. Every interaction between two objects takes place a the level of sensual properties or notes stripped off from the objects and combined together. Therefore, Harman infers, the real objects are probably also be composed of real properties or notes.

    This seems like the sort of analogical thinking that you’ve proposed, NR: we can’t know what real objects ARE, but we can know what they’re LIKE. What they’re like are phenomena: the sensuous surfaces of objects that we perceive. We infer from the sensual surfaces of objects we encounter that the reality of these objects, hidden beneath the surface, is likewise comprised of properties or qualities or notes. If Harman extends the analogy between sensuous and real that far, why not go farther and propose that the sensual qualities of the object in our encounter with it are LIKE the real qualities of that object hidden beneath the surface?

    This is how science proceeds: light might not really BE wavicles, but it’s LIKE wavicles. Scientists devise experiments, which constitute varied and carefully controlled phenomenal encounters with objects, in an attempt both to probe beneath the surfaces of objects and to triangulate on them through divergent kinds of sensual encounters. So scientists study light by visual perception and conducting spectrogram analysis and shining lights through narrow slits and measuring speed of transmission etc. etc. Do these divergent phenomenal views of the same object converge on some set of invariant qualities or properties of light? If so, then the scientific assumption is that it’s a convergence on what light is REALLY LIKE. I’d think that Harman’s theory could be extended into a scientific worldview. The question then becomes whether Harman’s work becomes a variant on the philosophy of science, less grand in scope than his speculative metaphysical system.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 July 2009 @ 9:07 am

  13. “A kind of literal metaphor”

    The Hellenized Catholic philosophers made a distinction between the “accidents” and the “substance” of an object. So in the transubstantiation of the Mass the accidents stayed the same — still look and taste like bread and wine — whereas the substance is transformed — trans-substantiated — into the body and blood. This sounds a lot like Harman’s distinction between sensual qualities and real qualities. Luther insisted on consubstantiation: the substance was both bread/wine AND body/blood AT THE SAME TIME. Finally Calvin came along and said it was a metaphor: the bread/wine are LIKE the body/blood in particular ritualistic ways.

    The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene is a great meditation on the Catholic idea. Even a corrupt whiskey priest can perform the transubstantiating miracle because it’s REAL, regardless of the beliefs and attitudes of the people involved.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 July 2009 @ 9:22 am

  14. “what’s in it for me, as a human”

    What’s the point of any sort of speculation? I wonder: does a passing comet speculate in some inhuman way about why it maintains its elliptical orbit around the sun? Or is speculation — the ability to imagine things outside of experience — a distinctly human sort of endeavor? Or is speculation just a more highfalutin’ way of responding to the allure of the universe and absorbing it whole into a merged metaphysicalized self-object, in the same way that the sun captures the comet in its sphere of remote control?

    “I think the Temptress scores more on her clever journalistic style of writing”

    He says that people accuse him of this, as if it’s a sign of great thinking to write badly. He does write compellingly and colorfully about pretty arcane matters, which is a rare talent. The profusion of colorful figures of speech does tend both to draw attention to his content while also distracting the reader with stylistic flair. I suspect Harman regards his thinking and his writing as a unified whole. Some might regard it as a sort of spectacularly alluring whole that resists efforts to delve into its secret depths…

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 July 2009 @ 9:35 am

  15. “I think she was just being mean”

    Here’s another case example of the Harmaniac world of objects: can we know the real Patrick-object based on the way he presents himself in blogs? He says not, that there’s a significant difference between the virtual and the real, both in identities and in relationships. But is there ANY association between virtual Patrick and real Patrick? Is there any association between someone’s face-to-face encounter with Patrick and who Patrick really is in his secret essence?

    I don’t know much about hyperstition as a theory, but it seems premised on the idea that one can make a fictional world real by living it. This might be another facet of Patrick’s project: by, for example, imagining that his virtual lover is some particular person and living inside this imagined world, it becomes real. The lover REALLY IS this person in Patrick’s hyperstitionally constructed universe, even if in the outside empirical world he is not. This sort of hyperstitional becoming-real is sort of the opposite of of Harman’s realism. Hyperstition is rather like Karl Barth’s variant on Christian theology. Barth says that “in Christ” the whole Biblical saga is “really” real even if it isn’t empirically or phenomenologically or experientially real.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 July 2009 @ 9:47 am

  16. What’s the point of any sort of speculation?

    What I mean is how can this knowledge about the kitchen appliances’s sex life HELP me to cope with the already-difficult life? What am I to conclude, that me and the coffee-machine object should each make their own coffee and leave each other alone, because we don’t really know each other. Or like, kill myself because the floor tiles don’t love me. It sounds like a fashion fad, which is probably all that it really is, despite its pretensions to the revolutionary.

    Anyway Eloise the Temptress didn’t publish your mails, the Blawger object did.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 24 July 2009 @ 4:39 pm

    • This would make a good stand-up routine — maybe you could be a guest act on the NOAM Show (see link on Perverse Egalitarianism, last comment from Nick on the Project-Oriented post).

      Like

      Comment by john doyle — 24 July 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  17. I am right now marvelig at the way Elitist-Bextor, currently at the height of her paranoid schizophrenia, actually bought into this 1980s pastische horror vortex with the Nick Land character, of whom I know nothing, and is now fearing for her life, reporting abuse at the Ballet Board and sending me sweaty e-mails about her vengeance, which no doubt will include the publication of my ass JPGs in lingerie. She’s managed to meld me now into her Nick Land-Lafayette-Terminator persecutor. But I suppose if you asked Dr Harman’s coven how they feel about their horror spinoffs causing paranoia in readers, they would say the fact is irrelevant because the Patrick-character is a Troll.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 24 July 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    • I see no reason to worry about email blackmail. It’s one advantage of your already being offensive — how much worse can it get?

      Like

      Comment by john doyle — 24 July 2009 @ 6:06 pm

  18. tVoPR: ” I guess I’d rather read something called PRINCE OF NETWORKS than DIFFERENCE AND GIVENNESS, but that’s a media issue, not a philosophic one.”

    Kvond: Now we all know that you would rather read “The Prince of Giveness”, (but only if it were written by Deepak Chopra, and turned into a thriller by M. Night Shyamalan, with a first time screenplay by the Ljubljanian wonder).

    Like

    Comment by kvond — 24 July 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  19. Kvond: Now we all know that you would rather read “The Prince of Giveness”, (but only if it were written by Deepak Chopra, and turned into a thriller by M. Night Shyamalan, with a first time screenplay by the Ljubljanian wonder).

    LOOK WHO’S TALKING, the man whose crypticisms exceed Zizek’s by three double binds and a Moebius strip! I always need a thesaurus when reading your blawg. Anyway I know how much you want dr. Sinthome, you pervert.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 25 July 2009 @ 1:20 am

    • [For those following along at home, I believe that VOPR and kvond enjoy a relationship in which the expression of this sort of personal insult is acceptable.]

      Like

      Comment by john doyle — 25 July 2009 @ 6:42 am

      • Hmmm. I very seldom insult the VOPR. And I do not consider it an insult to exceed Zizek in anything (other than Lacanian determination), the guy’s fantastic in most ways one would want a thinker to be. As for my disappointment in the Larval one, that makes me cringe a little bit, God knows why the VOPR has such a fixation on Larvus and Harman. My difficulties with Levi is he likes to play professor sometimes in rather incoherent fashion, and Harman, because he bullies folks he deems lessor than himself, all the while holding a theory that is pretty silly as a description of the world, though creative if you’re hellbent on being a Heideggerian.

        As for VOPR, I suspect that the reason why he dips into the profane and obscene is that its some sort of octopus ink blot in the water, hoping others do not pursue his rather interesting (if oddly too Lacanian at times) ideas and observations. What he is parodying is nothing much more than himself, attempting the age-old jester trick, since his ideas are much more interesting than his pornography. In fact, he performs the opposite of what Zizek describes as the structure of pornography. In pornography the plot is just there as an excuse, or a prop, for showing “it”, whereas for VOPR, the obscenity is there as a excuse for showing his thoughts, thoughts that can always melt into something more colorful.

        In short, I wish he would stop his focus on perversion (insults) and start saying some of those more interesting things that are in his brain. But I’m glad he’s reading my weblog looking for synonyms. I don’t really find his personal insults acceptable towards myself or others, and neither should he.

        Like

        Comment by kvond — 25 July 2009 @ 9:53 am

  20. Thanks kvond, we’ll embrace you as well in the non-personal-insults ethos of ktismatics. I agree that VOPR has many fine and creative ideas. One wonders whether the obscene insults occupy the other side of the split screen, the other side of the Mobius, refusing either to go away or to become integrated into a single view…

    “The Egyptian temptress is suffering from rabies”

    Here’s something I just read:

    To be not only an animal but a depraved animal, but a depraved one: an aborted animal, a sick animal, a delirious animal. Upon first seeing a rabid dog one thinks it is becoming human. This is not a promising basis for divinity.”

    – from The Thirst for Annihilation by Nick Land, 1992.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 25 July 2009 @ 11:32 am

  21. One wonders whether the obscene insults occupy the other side of the split screen,

    Yes Eloise we can philosophize about that, but Kvond is lying when he says that he’s bothered by the narcissistic cat’s professorial shenanigans; he’s really bothered that the cat doesn’t want to give his ass. The cat is like Kvond’s Doppelganger, possessing that imagined excess of prestige that Kvond think he needs in order to become an academic star, and that he simultaneously loathes, hence his enormous libidinal investment in the cat. But as I said many times, I think these kinds of perverse conflicts yield much more in terms of original thought and production, than these polite and boring discussions ending with ”I do so agree with you” or ”K-punk just wrote an adorable article”, and so on.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 25 July 2009 @ 9:08 pm

    • Alas VOPR, I can think of few things worse than being an “academic star”, but one of them might be, believing that you are an academic star, which seems even more soporific. You make me chuckle though.

      Like

      Comment by kvond — 25 July 2009 @ 9:35 pm


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