Archive for the ‘the other’ Category

A fantasy to hide our flesh

July 22, 2007

This post is about eating Knowledge and the creation of the first System. It discusses the moment in history in which man created the first, provisory sign, and that other moment which came right after.

Provisory Sign

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”, Genesis, 2, 25.

[6 verses later]

“she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;

One minute before, one minute after, and in between – the moment of revelation, produced through a method that even Hume couldn’t have but approved – and here they are, Adam & Eve, digesting the naked, shameful truth – the body.

Their eyes wide open, Adam and Eve realize that this truth is too painful to watch, maybe too banal, for sure too concrete. And so they create, on the spot, in the same verse, in the same time capsule – the first sign.

and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

This first sign, however, was too fragile. The fig leaves were sensible to the blowing winds, to brusque movements, and so most of the time they were failing to hide the flesh, to cover up on the naked truth. The sign was too unstable, the referent being visible here and there.

Borrowing from Lyotard (The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982-1985), this instability of the sign evoked fear and trembling: the exposure of the referent and the failure to fixate the referencing sign, which is the other, creates a problem of identity. If the other’s identity is not fixed, neither is mine. It is the ability to rapidly identify and decipher the meaning of the sign – not its referent, which should be hidden for good – but the meaning arising from its contextual, structural entourage – that assists in the creation of self-consciousness, and of identity. The more rapid and stable this process of exchanging and recognizing signs is, the more stable are the effects of realism, the more solid is the Fantasy of the Real.

Surprisingly, this floating point of identity bothered God and made him react by providing Adam & Eve with some practical knowledge, that is – how to design and fabricate stable signs.

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them”.

No, God didn’t provide us humans with light, or fire; nor did he provide us with arrows or scrolls. The only practical thing God has provided us with was the Fashion System, Le Système de la mode, an empire of signs: a fantasy to hide our flesh.

stop the fashion system, february, 1990

Franco Moschino, Stop the fashion system, february, 1990

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Maybe a Monad (Phaedrus by the river)

July 15, 2007

My Alter Ecko has recently published two posts around Phaedrus – this beautiful dialogue between Socrates and his beloved one, with the impeccable scenery of a mythological river, an oak and a rock, an idyllic setup for discours amoureux.

Yet, while tapping into the conversation between the two, I felt a growing uneasiness. Maybe it was the merciless manner by which Socrates slaughtered Lysias’ speech, unwrapping it from its content (utilitarian love), from its style (rhetoric), from its medium (written on scroll) and [implicitly] from its audience (the crowds), leaving nothing behind, not even some grains of Lysiasian ashes for a hasty funeral.

But most probably it was the erotic love praised by Socrates through never ending parabolas [although beautifully narrated: the black horse, the white horse etc.] that evoked my discontent. For through the mists of heavenly passions I saw a stream, an oak and a rock. By the stream sat Narcissus; by the rock stood Echo [I was hiding behind the oak]. Narcissus-Socrates was looking at Phaedrus, through the watery reflection, remembering the lost heavens of his fallen soul; and Phaedrus, standing by the rock, his heart engulfed with emotions, was watching the figure that was Socrates, seeing nothing but his own image, Phaedrus holding a scroll, echoed back onto his eyes, again and again and again and again.

Echo and Narcissus by Waterhouse

No, this was not a dream: I have it all well written.

The Lover is his mirror.

“And thus he [the beloved one] loves, but he knows not what; he does not understand and cannot explain his own state; he appears to have caught the infection of blindness from another; the lover is his mirror in whom he is beholding himself, but he is not aware of this”.

The Beloved is his clone.

The qualities of their god they attribute to the beloved, wherefore they love him all the more… wanting to make him as like as possible to their own god… for no feelings of envy or jealousy are entertained by them towards their beloved, but they do their utmost to create in him the greatest likeness of themselves and of the god whom they honour.

Oh boy! A mirror and a clone, a love for oaks and rocks.

I’m not sure about my above distribution of the Echo-Narcissus roles; I do feel, though, that this erotic love, although praising the other, is deeply ego-centric to the point that I am willing to concede that indeed each and every one of us is a self-contained monad, all the others being eventually nothing but reflections of one’s own self.

“When I become death” according to Levinas

July 3, 2007

Emmanuel Levinas’ La Mort et Le Temps (English translation in God, Death and Time) opens with a reading of Heidegger´s Sein und Zeit, a reading that evolves around the themes of the carnival, the essence of time, the nature of death, the type of questions to which answers are not the right answer, and finally – literature as a masking process (rather than a revealing one).

[But maybe I’m wrong. It could well be that Levinas says nothing of the above themes, and that it is my own philosophical delusions, the consequences of my posts here on Foucault, Lyotard, Barthes, Deleuze, and Burroughs.]

Emmanuel Levinas

The Carnival.

The carnival represents the absolute assimilation of a human being with the role assigned to him/her by the system. Yet by this assimilation the human being ceases to be a human being, for being a human is to continuously question “Being”, i.e. to be a critical being towards Being, constantly reassessing the possibilities of an always changing existence. This is when Levinas uses the term ek-sistence – existing from the outside (and it is also where the two reasons of the first Emmanuel – K. – are fully present).

The critical spectator stands behind the curtain, looking inside the theater, considering her options on stage. This cannot be done while on stage, while wearing the mask of the carnival.

And yet. “Behind the curtain there is nothing to see… nor beneath it”, says Deleuze, following Foucault. The critical being is therefore not to be imagined out of stage; s/he is not to be imagined as a passive spectator. Rather, the critical being is assimilated into the system’s role, while continuously challenging that role. Indeed, says Deleuze, behind the curtain there is nothing to see, “but it was all the more important each time to describe the curtain”. So we are in the carnival, but we don’t play wholeheartedly. We’re aware of the play, and we improvise whenever we see fit.

The Question.

The question of being is a question to which answers are not the right answer, the first trait of Being, being the mark of that Question. Barthes maintains that those questions of Being can only live within Literature, but he also maintains that Literature is a carnivalesque mask. The only way to cope with these contradictions is to follow Foucault’s advise: “We have to move beyond the outside-inside alternative; we have to be at the frontiers. Criticism indeed consists of analyzing and reflecting upon limits.” (What is Enlightenment).

Cain: marked by the Question of Abel’s death – a bookmark on Cain’s Time axis.

Time.

Time, explains Levinas, is the Other. The infinite time is the antipode of the finite human, the Other remaining necessarily out of our reach. Time, therefore, represents all possible Otherness.

Time is the Other. What a strange sentence. The Rhizome of the nomadic others is a Rhizome of Time Capsules.

Ich und Du.

The Other, through his facial movements conveys a message to the spectator, who is consequently responsible for processing the message, and of providing an answer. We can therefore say that Communication creates responsibility which, in turn, creates individuality: “I” is responsible for this and that person, because there are communication links between us.

We’ll see next that communication is a mask; like literature it does not reveal [things from behind the curtain], but rather conceals [the true essence of being]. Facial movements are answers. But Being is being a Question.

What does the nomadic Rhizome mask? What does Time mask? Is Time the Curtain?

As for Death.

When I become death

As for Death – death needs time for what it kills to grow in. Death needs the Other, just like “I” needs it. But why does Death need Time?

Think of Death as a bookmark, engraving a point on our time axis. This point, says Levinas, opens a gate to a communication-free world – the end of exchanging answers. Finally, we, the dead, can realize our human potential of being a pure question. The cover story of our life, the Literature told by our face, by our facial movements is finally completed. The End.

When we become death, death is the seed from which we grow – the seed of the pure Question.

The Gaze of the Sign

April 24, 2007

(This post follows Gater’s role in Body/Language: Barthes-Foucault vs. Gater’s Taboo)

“The signs exist insofar as they are recognized, i.e. insofar as they are repeated”.

Through this simple definition Barthes introduces the concept of the other (used as a technique in the philosophical discourses of the past [the Greek friend, see D&G]; used as an existential condition in Buber, Barthes and others).

We’re all signs. Think about concepts. Each concept has a never ending trail of other concepts, and behind each concept there’s a human – that human who gave life to the concept in the first place; that human who revived the concept after it has long been forgotten. With every word we pronounce, and every sign we digest, it’s the history of humanity mashed between our teeth.

We’re all signs, and hence our existence is dependent on recognition and repetition – repeated recognition by other signs.

If God is the first Word and words are signs, then God needs repeated recognition just the same. This can probably explains why we, the other signs, have been originally created, and in his own image.

Sometimes, we like to create our own recognition signs – we can then play and replay them again and again – an endlessly repeating loop of recognition.

“I like to do it with my friends; sometimes we videotape it, then we watch it…”.

This is a cry for meaning – a desperate need for recognition. For whatever reason, a new sign is created for this purpose: a videotape in which the original sign is captured. Then, the original sign plays and replays the secondary sign, the videotape, gaining through this repetition the so wanted existential recognition.

But then, something else happens. While watching the secondary sign affirming our existence, we do it again. This time, the original sign is the one affirming and recognizing the existence of the secondary sign.

This is the potlatch: one affirms our existence and we reaffirm back his/her own existence, in a looped process that can potentially persist for a while. The more this process continues, the more respectful and ‘full of life’ the two signs become.

Only, the inhuman sign not only cannot become ‘more full of life’, but it is found to have very strange effects, when used as an affirming sign: the potlatch is canceled!

Here’s an example: you’re giving your friend a present. Your friend is very happy. She then wants to repay you for making her happy and so she gives you back a present: only, it is the same present you gave her in the first place. Evidently, this will not make you happy, for by that act, your friend has canceled your act. It is a canceling exchange, because it’s an echo.

Whatever echoes, mirrors, cannot be considered as an existential affirmation and recognition. Whatever echoes cannot be used as a potlatch, for the echo cancels the potlatch. Gater’s video should be seen as a cry for a meaningful existence. But the inhuman videotape gives no salvation: it’s a static dancing.

There’s no replacement for the human gaze.

The Gaze of the Sign

The Metaphor of the Hidden Interlocutor

March 30, 2007

I’m always very happy with ecko4inc’s comments, as they form a very special continuation of a dialogue. By “very special” I mean that they cannot be seen as a common feedback in which the interlocutor feeds back her reactions or her anti-thesis or her bifurcated, parallel thesis (as it is too often the case) into the fireplace of the dialogue; rather ecko’s comments should be seen as a genre, having probably the margins of philosophy as its lieu of happening.

[ The margins of philosophy

Following my thoughts on the word “minor” – that word used by Kant to signify an immature human being not using his reason; that word used by Poe and {jump through hyperspace} Foucault to signify the only possible, or valuable, spatio-temporal frame of reference; that word practiced by Deleuze in his way of teaching the different philosophies, the different philosophers – I got an official feedback to the above minor associations by a Philosophy professor [Philosophy with a capital P], who laconically said that Derrida made a career out of analyzing footnotes (This Professor doesn’t like Derrida in particular and post-modernism in general, because, he says, they don’t offer any hope. Indeed, Deleuze and many others maintained that “there’s nothing behind the curtain”, if hope is to be associated with the discovery of a hidden reality. Surprisingly, this Professor, who dismisses Derrida for he brings no hope, happened to devote his entire life to Leibniz, being the first official “Leibniz Professor”. What puzzles me here is my intuitive association between “there’s nothing behind the curtain” and the Monadology – I don’t remember anything substantial behind the Monad’s curtain…)

]

So ecko4inc is not feeding back; ecko feeds on, feeds further. He joins the flow of thoughts, expressed in the post’s words and images, and uses them as ad-hoc rafts, on top of which he jumps and flows-on in that great {collective [but private (but collective)]} stream of consciousness, showing where else those ideas could have streamed, are streaming. I become a hidden interlocutor for ecko, my stream of consciousness finds itself included in his stream of consciousness in a most natural way, an echo for ecko, an echo for inclusion.

The only real thing is the interaction among people; all the rest is an illusion. Any monad includes and relates to all other monads – and this inclusion and that interaction is the only real thing in a monad’s life.

jumping.jpg

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