Of Culture (After Deconstruction)


Future of Cultural Modes:

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In locating meaning's origin as a most unremarkable duality more elegant than differance, we have proceeded through a series of preliminary observations. We initially presented a reading of history as progressive-regressive vicissitudes and undulations, an affective desubstantialization whose ethical implications point to a thinking beyond-within blameful justice and forgiveness. Our reduction of notions like past, anachronism and regression to incipient phases of furthering then led to the revelation of meaning's edge as less than particular terms for difference such as affirmation-negation, genesis-structure, yes-no, less than any nameable twoness. We recognized that meaning's self-exceeding could not understand itself via terms of gathering or dispersion, and valuations such as `better´ or `worse´, `more´ and `less´. A history would never amount to more than an equivocal, exquisitely subliminal pairing too insubstantial to hold labels such as more and less, progress and anachronistic regress, future and past, or even difference and repetition.

Let us turn now to the issue of cultural modalities. What does our analysis of the origin of a history in general tell us about the basis of names like the political, the aesthetic, the scientific? If the supposed thematic of a philosophical development escapes any notion of a gathering, if this intense intimacy deprives it of the purity of a trajectory, then we must recognize that the same is true of any other cultural name we invoke. In naming a history as a history of such and such, the impression is given of an at least momentary thematic consistency. If there is such a thing as a philosophical trajectory alongside an apparent infinity of non-philosophical trajectories, the result is a specter of multiple, parallel categories of cultural movement vying with each other for priority. Once we place our faith in at least contextually determinable cultural modalities, we are obligated to assume the privileging, from time to time, of one or another of these gatherings over the others. We might be inclined to indulge in the fancy that a philosophical thinking, in certain instances or for certain purposes, has preference over a scientific or an aesthetic or political style of expressiveness.

Whenever a self-proclaimed philosopher insists on an ontological priority for her discipline over others, would not a musician or poet have the right to claim to do the same thing, that is, to establish a reformed aesthetic basis for thinking which privileges the artistic or poetic over the philosophical? The point is that there is no way or need to retrieve categorical styles of theorizing. There would be no `science´ or `philosophy´ proper to make the claim to have precedence over any of the others; instead, there would always be a thread of impossibly fine continuity-novelty invoking not a paralleling, but an interweaving, an imperceptible `shifting´ from one sense of endeavor to another that intervenes before the crystallization into a proper modality. This shifting has already always begun in the instant of relation of one event to another. We cannot say that a philosophical thinking would precede other realms it surveys; as a particularity, something like a philosophical modality has already become unsubstantially else than itself when we attempt to return to its sense in the very next moment. It has already subtly and imperceptibly become another of an infinity of particular and non-returning events-modalities in the instant of its repetition. This transversal is less than that within or between regions. The traversal which forms the world as history is too fine for abstractions like inside-outside.

For this reason, there is no question of privileging something we would call the political or the aesthetic over a presumed category like science or technology. Reserving a special place for poetics with regard to philosophy, as Heidegger can be read as intending, does not secure the ontological priority of the former in relation to something like science, any more than it secures the definitional grounding of any of these modes, nor even the possibility of the gathering, from instant to instant, of something that is more or less a sense of philosophy or literature or political. They all transmogrify as we particularize them, as all our supposed moods-senses do, to reveal an apparent infinity of new variations of something less than a recognizable effect or style or mode, even as we attempt to trace their own pure lineage. As these lines of text are written, they ever so intricately spread themselves over all possible ranges of tonality and apparent sense without ever solidifying, even if just for a moment, into a nameable content, mood, differance.

When a mode such as `the´ technological is deemed as representing an inauthentic or impoverished way of thinking, and another, such as `the´ poetic, is lauded as the highest expression of Being, it is a certain thinking of the poetic or the technological, never before existing or again to appear as itself, which is elevated or demonized, implicating a corresponding demarcation of `the´ philosophical to be praised or condemned. Intrinsic to this re-originating notion of the philosophic would be an equivocal re-invention of any and all other possible stylistic gatherings. It would not simply be the philosophical and poetic, rendered in particular ways, that would reign supreme over other forms of culture, but a reformed thinking of all modes as they spin out from each other in the way that eventness moments itself as doubled sense upon sense upon sense without knowing or needing to know what each sense means outside of its effect as less-than-nameable affectivity.

My philosophical speculation already slides imperceptively away from itself, becoming scientific, literary, theological, political, and an apparent infinity of other modes of speculation over the course of moments (but less than any of these names in their claim to locate themselves as definitive affectivities). There would be implied in our philosophizing on these pages a rethinking of what had been established as the physical, the biological and the psychological as a non-rationalistic, non-dialectic language of carrying forward. My orientation toward a contemporary physics which appears to me to traffic in an archaic language of Idealist mathematical truth (Hawking, Penrose) projects these `disappointments´ from a vantage of a future physics, a physics no longer putting its faith in the self-identicality of number and the object.

To view what would be labeled as an aesthetic or political domain through my `philosophy´ is to hear a futuring of what would have been named as something like musical or literary style, political orientation, whether explicitly formulated as theory or not. Something like a Romantic philosophy hears Romantic music, poetry, science, just as a poststructuralist philosophy implicitly textualizes itself as a poststructuralist music, poetry, science. To view the sciences via a Husserlian intentional Lifeworld would be to offer a new story of genesis, to already preview a new physics and a new biology even if no mention is explicitly made of how the content of those fields would change. A Husserlian orientation would question the philosophical implications of a relativistic physics or a Darwinian biology from the vantage of a re-thought `future´ of these sciences even though no explicit new account of physical or biological phenomena is introduced. Even when a philosophy denies any new implications for the thinking of other cultural modes (cf. Dilthey´s differentiation between human and natural science methods), a re-invention of any and all modes would already be spun immediately upon the instant of the incantation of `philosophy´, without giving any privilege to philosophy over the indeterminate multitude of other cultural modes that are spun out before and after it in the mediate immediacy of the now. A text as absolute contingency is a whole universe of moods, gestures, distractions that intervene to seemingly interrupt the intended continuity of the writing.

Even though they may appear invisible to us on cursory examination, in our writing and reading of texts all these peripheral activities of distracted sense are an intrinsic part of any experience of writing, reading, thinking. It is these ephemeral and seemingly secondary distractions intervening in our attempts to concentrate on our subject matter which form the basis of an endless multiplicity of cultural modes. Simply in struggling to get through a single line of text on a page, we find ourselves experiencing in oh so subtle a fashion the basis of the political, economic, social, theological, aesthetic, and on and on. This we do in our subtle shifting of attention in myriad ways from what is on a page to what is not and everything in between; what in an archaic language might be referred to as a transit from conceptualization to sensation to recollection to emotion to action to dreaming, without knowing what these names could definitely mean. This bouncing from mode to mode of awareness takes place at all times in every experience, but is no distraction from that of reading, writing and speaking textualities. This bouncing and shifting, which is the very basis of experience, prevents us from justifying distinctions based on relative gathering or dispersion of modalization (for instance, the claim to differentiate between a better or worse example of art, or between philosophy and literature). And why is it the case that supposed variations WITHIN a gathered modality cannot ultimately be differentiated from variations assumed as BEYOND that modality? We earlier discussed this in the context of the relation between affectivities of being-in-common and affectivities of seeming disruption and surprise. Let us be reminded with a quote from that discussion:

"The surprise of interruption seems to disturb, but, while we weren't looking, our so-called gathered style was already calling itself by (barely) different names all the time. Of course surprise is a different name than commonality or gatheredness, but is its difference from groupness measurably , determinably different than that which differentiates the so-called group within itself moment to moment? Can we justifiably locate a relation between what we want to name `surprise´ or `interruption´ on the one hand and `groupness´ on the other, whose named poles transcend the utter contingency of the countless names for groupness and the equally innumerable names for surprise? If my belonging to a gathering reinvents itself event to event as now excited, now bored, now familiar, now anxious, then is my `sudden surprise´ at now being dislocated from this always internally differing belonging something to be treated separately and transcendingly from names for the undulations of belonging? Is not the `more´ of apparent surprise and disappointment indistinguishable in its gravity from that which minimally distinguishes all instants of sense from each other? Is not the seemingly drastic always prepared for? Is it not anticipated in our feigned shock?"

All we know is local context, and the locality of context is always less than the naming of relative gatheredness of sense. At the same time, this shifting of sense offers something on the order of a profound continuity and stability born of a dearth of tension, force and resistance. It is a stability and continuity attributable to the utterly insignificant effect manifested by the two parts of a hinge of meaning. Modalization of something like cultural modes may not be determinative as such and such regions or gatherings, even when a `region´ is treated as heteronymous with respect to itself event to event. But the modalizing shifts of moment-to-moment awareness can be understood as generating a general and intense impression of self-similarity and gentleness as we move imperceptibly from something like the philosophical to the political to the aesthetic.

Of a Future of Art:

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As is the case with my trafficking in any history, my vantage of what seems to me as decadent in art comes from and is impossibly co-implicated in my understanding of a future of my artistic heritage. But how would I define such a tradition? What would be the meaning of something like the aesthetic? What if we were to define such a way of thinking in terms of a style of subliminality, figurativeness, impressionism and incipience, opposing itself to the concreteness and articulated literalness of theory? It would not be enough to point out that it would always be an infinitesimally different sense of incipience and subliminality on the one hand, or concreteness and articulation on the other, which would return to us as we attempted to trace parallel histories of the aesthetic and the philosophical. More fundamentally, to speak of parallel tracks would be to overdetermine the effect of historification; in the instant we attempt to follow art's or philosophy's historical thread as new senses of 'itself', they have already gently become variations of something like the scientific, something like the political and a multiplicity of other moods whose names disappear before they can be determined as gathered senses from one event to the next.

But let us again make recourse to a language of quasi-development. Let us pretend that we can define threads of poetic, iconic, literary and musical history via their paralleling or shadowing a supposed philosophical desubstantializing evolution, even though we know this order claims too much for itself. From the vantage of this illusion, histories of musical, erotic, literary, poetic, iconic art would reveal a peculiar affective-ethical progress. The course of aesthetic development, from classical to Medieval, Renaissance to Romantic, Modernist to Postmodern would evince a progressive minimization of mystery, thingness, substantial essence, moody pain and pleasure. Postmodern discussions, in their embrace of Nietzschean and Foucaultian themes, would echo philosophy's penetration beneath the solidity of modernist metaphysics. For instance, Vattimo declares the end of metaphysical idealism in art:

From architecture to the novel to poetry to the figurative arts, the postmodern displays, as its most common and most imposing trait, an effort to free itself from the logic of overcoming, development, and innovation(EM95-107).

Oliva comments:

In a society in transition toward an indefinable end, the only option open is that afforded by a nomadic and transitory mentality...Working in fragments means preferring the vibrations of sensibility to monolithic ideological content. These vibrations are necessarily discontinuous. They carry the artist toward a project made of numerous linguistic accidents, beyond the logical coherence of poetry. Fragments are symptoms of an ecstacy of dissociation. They are signs of a desire for continuous mutation...The work always responds to the requirements of the unrepeatable chance, because the relationship between the artist and his means of expression is unrepeatable(IT36-43).

The work is a "micro-event", a "bewildered image", a "mildness", a minor presence, a whim. Jameson points to radical fragmentation of cultural experience as a hallmark of postmodernity, expressed in art via pastiche and blank parody, parody without parody's "ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something NORMAL compared to which what is being imitated is rather comic"(PCS114). Modernist moods of substantial angst, alienation, opposition, make way for what Jameson terms a waning of affect, a desubstantialized affectivity of Lyotardian intensities. And Lyotard's notion of the postmodern subliminal puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable; that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable(PC340).

How could we characterize the direction of a trend toward a `stronger sense´ of the unrepresentable, of a waning of affect? It would remind us of our imagined model of a history of affective condensation-depowering, a notion of difference progressively ridding itself of the substantiality of its self-other axes. We would then need to recall why such an endeavor would be doomed. Following the notion of an anti-representational subliminal to its further implications would expose an origin already utterly devoid of tension. Rather than being a journeying progress, a history of art would be the non-repeating momenting of a tension-less double play even less substantive than the minimal moodiness of affirmation and negation. There would be no way and no need to know or name the particularity of the manner in which an aesthetic innovation questions a prior thinking of the aesthetic, any more than we can know how something like the aesthetic differentiates itself from a style of thinking which is supposedly other than the aesthetic, such as philosophy or science. Following such a supposed lineage in its vicissitudes would lead us to a characterization of a future of the so-called aesthetic in terms of what would make it impossible for us to need to define this modality any longer (but of course we never could). We could state that against our thinking we can locate in the culture around us and in history books the apparent regurgitation of archaic approaches to aesthetics, but we would in fact realize that there never was a way to retrieve a past as any stable particularities, that in seeming to be able to point to an archive in which categories and definitions of something like an aesthetic realm were affixed, we locate only our future as less-than particular moments of ou r thinking.

But what of this future with no past? If anything we say of such a future of art must equally be said of philosophy, science or any other mode, we can still raise the following questions: What is art, literature, music without faith in drama, tension, tragedy, conflict, or even irony and pastiche? If we were to say that a history of music, painting, dance marks nothing more than a desubstantializing repetition, how is the future of this movement, which my supposed recollection of its past (or anachronistic contemporary creations) already covertly manifests and furthers, to be thought via a relation of performance and practice, iconography and image, theory and concept? What sort of inscription would art's history as less than the mysterious power of substantial difference imply? What is left of text in which devices of iconography, metaphor, representation, symbolics lose all determinable sense? Might something like a writing of words be what we have in mind? We know too much about writing and textuality to suggest that there ever was a way to justify a stable distinction between performance and theory, word and icon, or between any particularities of meaning. This futuring would not point to a notion of writing in the narrow sense of one technique privileged over others, word over image, but a dynamic akin to Derrida's trace in its non-privileging equivocality. If a future of what would have been called the arts is to be found in this strange writing, then we cannot define inscription in oppositional, critical or even Derridean differential terms. Would this writing be a melding of performance and theory, of medium and content? Less than a melding, it would be a thinking of such terms without a means or necessity to distinguish them in any palpable, that is, nameable way, even as a whimsical difference between wandering fragments. It would locate within a playful puzzle of fragments a topography already akin to resolved, predictable, assimilative. What kind of practice would evince these traits?

Such creators of a `future´ would reveal a territory of explication no longer fictive, storied, imagistic, dramatic, maintaining its multiple identity no longer as a distinction from philosophy or any other named region, but as implied before there would be a named separation into categories. They would unravel, fragmentize dramatic structures of meaning by picking away at the line between life and death, dream and reality, past, present and future. They would work their way beneath the text of theme the way that Derrida plays within literature, philosophy, politics, theology, enabling a multiplication of difference whose non-directional vector continues history's non-motile movement as the divestiture of affective difference.

The progeny of those we would recall from some cultural past or anachronistic present as musicians, poets, novelists, dancers, painters would reveal a list of `writers´, but no canvas or moving image screen, no instruments of sound, no devices of performance which would be compatible with, recognizable within, necessary to a thinking of something like an aesthetic future, besides a barely detectable gimmick rendering to expression its ability to continue as an aesthetic of impossibly insignificant self-similarity. It would not be as if anything had been lost to us, as if we were now deprived of the fruits of a tradition of art, but that we now recognize as we look over our shoulder at a history of art that which we acknowledged in accounting for an illusionary philosophical lineage. There never was anything in such a history to justify itself in terms of the moody substantiality of devices, styles, instruments of performance.

All that one would attempt to say about such categories of technique would, upon rigorous inspection, shed itself of all advertised mystery. It would leave, from instant to instant, a minutely slanting thread of morphing senses of art, now almost politicized, now almost philosophized, now almost economized, now almost theologized, whose supposed expressive passion was now understood to be founded on a less than definable furthering of thinking, already endlessly spanning but falling short of the substance of all these hollow names, failing to gather itself even for a between-event moment of relation as the more or less of a style or thematics. The future of a supposed heritage of art; what we recall having been once claimed for fine pictorial, musical, architectural&nbs p; art in their embrace of fine philosophy, may perhaps be found now only as something like words on a page. This future of the so-called arts would mark the understanding of a radically substanceless intimacy of experience in which `words´ are not to be thought as the privileging of one definable category of inscription over others. A certain thinking of words now crudely denotes for us the notion of a marking devoid of anything that could know what vision and sound, emotion and logic, the literal and the figurative could distinguish.

Are Blanchot and Lyotard commentators for a community which thinks it can still find definitional meaning in a word like art? Or do they hint at a future of art as a less-than-iconic, less-than-symbolic marking of words? Do a series of writers, from Foucault to Kristeva, Deleuze and Derrida, play the role that painters, musicians, poets and novelists played in a remembered cultural past, a past whose future no longer needs to include those who call themselves painters and musicians and poets and novelists and dramatists who think they know what these names mean? Could it be that a certain spectrum of written articulation (Blanchot, Lyotard, Foucault) is the `only´ way of continuing the disseminative role of painters, architects and novelists of a recalled past? Can it make any sense to ask how creative expression after Derrida could sound musically, look pictorially, or feel emotively when the very faith in sound, image and drama necessary for these endeavors has been unravelled?

Dare we say that we cannot imagine a form of music, poetry, literature, dance that could knowingly `speak to´ a thinking of radical insubstantiality and gentleness, an aesthetic event which would not appear to tarry with an outdated past (though we know that this tarrying in fact continues our future in the peculiarity of its apparent falling away from it)? Does not a futuring beyond-within otherness and blame know too much, understand the world too well, too peacefully in its peculiar anticipatory intimacy, to linger with the unknowing anxious affectivities of a poetic, musical or literary mystery? There would be, and always has been nothing but (because the `regressive´ past of our vantage is already the less than present or absent `moreness´ of our future), an expressive understanding destabilizing not only any idea of a dramatic, conflict-based art idiom, but also the vanishing of any definable sense of metaphor, image, symbol and the impossibility of any devices resting on the substance of mystery. And what remains; what always remained? To the extent that we are able to minimally characterize a world, as we have done, then a bare affectivity of moreness remains to us. Such an affectivity reduces postmodern micronarrative to the status of an unfolding practically without distance or effect.

Anachronism and Modalization of Culture:

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We have described something like the aesthetic as moments of a slanting thread of morphing senses of art, now almost politicized, now almost philosophized, now almost economized, now almost theologized, but falling short of all of these names in its refusal of modalization. Let us look more closely at the way in which such a refusal is accomplished. Underlying the rhythm regulating the seeming appearance and disappearance, the gatherings and dispersions, workings and exhaustings of something like modalities of a cultural history would be a movement that defies all notions of momentum, of gatherings, thematics and modalities. How so? If we were to attempt to follow a cultural history as aesthetic, philosophic, or any other development lineage, eventually we would begin to notice most obviously what in fact has from the onset characterized its textual repetition; we seem to fall way from the supposed thematic, non-self-identical continuity of our trail. Tracing such a thing as philosophy, observing very closely the thread of most intimate linkage between the moments of an author's text or from one author to another, we find that it is always an infinitesimally different notion or sense of philosophy, a different style and content, that is being offered each time we return to it.

And eventually, the repetition of this impossible self-similarity will lead us to names grossly `outside of´ the self-similar themes of something like a philosophical language. Most importantly, the way in which philosophy ( or any sense-name-mode-mood) is never self-identical from one moment to the next is indistinguishable from the way in which a so-called transition would be effected from one mode to another. The break within philosophy (or any other contingent event) as a name, as thought instant to instant, is indistinguishable from the break BETWEEN philosophy and literature or science or the political or any other sense that happens to be thought in immediate contingency with something like an instant of philosophical thinking. There is no way to differentiate `within´ and `between´ when all the resources of sense are exhausted by being-two.

Of particular interest to us is what it is we are doing when we follow the trail of a cultural form to its apparent dissolution or decay. We can preliminarily depict the decaying of a creative form as a regurgitation of `what was´, reminding us of our characterization of the disappointing `other´ as anachronistic, as akin to the return of a supposed past and inadequate worldview. We can identify seeming popular or `backward´ metaphysics implied in areas from modern physics to Revivalist styles of literature and painting. We can locate around us segments of culture whose notions of business or technological creativity seem to regurgitate Rationalist worldviews, other segments whose political or scientific ideology exhumes Kant, and those whose literary tastes revisit Hegelian themes.

It is one thing to envision a notion of the regressive other in the guise of an individual, whose `old-fashioned´ way of thinking appears familiar, anticipatable to us in its belonging to a gently subsumable intellectual `past´. But what would it mean to speak of a cultural modality in such terms? How would we perform a translation of musical or poetic language into a theoretical eventing, such that we could place these expressions within a presumed developmental continuum of intellectual history? Cultural history's undulating unfolding weaves a thread of the closest imaginable developmental intimacy in the form of definable cultural movements in which a particular range of political, ethical, social views, and so on, would be co-implicated, along with a particular aesthetic style, in the quasi-progress of something like a cultural movement.

The fact that the efforts of artists, writers or tradesmen are inherently linked with specific political, social, ethical or theological implications allows us to understand movements, such as Romantic, Baroque, Renaissance, Symbolist, in terms other than just those determined by the presumed commonalities defined by a particular aesthetic realm. Aesthetic movements can seem to be characterizable in terms of a range of intellectual sensibilities which unite them with political, philosophical, scientific and other forms. Their expressed philosophical allegiances allow us to indulge in marking particular aesthetic or technological or political contributions as anachronistic, as seeming to evince a retreat from a certain edge of philosophical expression and into a conservativism, as the echoing of the understanding of a broader and more traditional segment of a culture. What is the significance of treating particular contributions to art, literature, science in this way?

The cultural expression which appears to me as anachronism would be linked with the popular, the tried-and-true, the too familiar. The archaic is that whose value is instantly co-opted culturally as the familiar rehash of a classic. What was recalled as once a radical discovery is now merely accepted device or craft, a seeming constriction of the dimensions of novelty. We could not identify the popular in terms of a notion of the commercial marketplace as a force of conformism and identical reproduction, however. There would be no such thing as a market as such in any monolithic or self-same sense, or its effects in terms of identical repetition of value.
The culture industry's capacity to co-opt, reproduce, and commodify has been cited as a reason for the demise of the avant-garde, and some claim, art itself. Crowther argues "Any art objects set forth with internal critical intent will be assimilated by the legitimizing discourse and market forces, and redistributed in the form of a STYLE"(PVA237-59). However, something like an economic market would never have had conservative power of presence in the first place such as to force conformity to type, any more than would a political or philosophical regime, or any other cultural realm. All that one could say about the apparent decadence of a modality of expression is that it represents a seeming retreat into an imagined cultural past, a move into more popular terrain.

For instance, the so-called latest and most advanced digital, internet, bio-technologies, as phenomena of popular market culture, could initially be seen as depending upon scientific-mathematical models which themselves originate in `anachronistic´ philosophical (Kantian, Hegelian) notions. Such technologies, to the extent that they apply `older´ theoretical ideas (and this does not mean that they resist their own constant reinvention, even when they are mistakenly thought of as mechanical derivations of a program), only exist as what they are because they are recognized as valuable and useful by a popular market unable, as a whole, to appreciate more progressive notions.
These technologies, as applied fields, would be defined by their ability to be understood by this mass audience. That is not to say that there would not be rich variability among this audience in the ways in which the meaning of these technologies is conceived, or that the inventors of a technology are not, at every instant, transforming the basis of what they `apply´ in their repeated experiencing of the `same´ formulas. To use a technology (even though it is always an inventive experience) does not require the same understanding of its theoretical basis as does the creation of that technology, for instance.

In any case, the apparent lag between cutting edge philosophy and the supposed level of philosophical advancement expressed by new applied technologies would explain why it is that individuals associated with the creation and dissemination of technological products tend to reject or misunderstand the `latest´ philosophical thinking. It is only by a very general use of the term that the newest technologies can be said to be `postmodern´ when those involved in their creation seem to lag considerably behind the thinking of philosophers identifying with a term like the postmodern, such as Rorty, Lyotard and Caputo. Thus, according to our developmental illusion, users and inventors of popular technologies would be seemingly regurgitating, in applied form, ways of thinking which had been created in earlier times by philosophers, scientists, artists. At the same time, each user and inventor of a `mass´ technology would always be transforming, in different ways, their understanding of a technology, rather than mechanically applying a formula.

In similar fashion, from the vantage of the developmental illusion, we can look around us and appear to be able to locate many such weary `pop´ contributors to artistic, political, philosophical, technological culture who unknowingly recycle and apply what we recognize as Kantian, Hegelian or other `anachronistic´ modes of thought. We could see their derivative products embraced by similarly weary `mass´ markets. It would be our gentle misfortune to be doomed to encounter, on a daily basis, such living archives of boredom and redundancy.

But such an analysis fails to understand the crucial point that there IS no capricious social world surrounding us. It is not just that there is no social environment of modes and groups and popular masses existing apart from the contingencies of our encounter with a world. Nor is it simply a matter of reminding ourselves that within the contingency of our experience, we don't encounter groups and masses, we encounter individuals, and not even individual persons, but singular senses-affects always in alteration from moment to moment. The important point is that, as we have seen, this experiencing is not an encounter between subject and object or a differential interval between elements of meaning but rather the barest adventure of sense as new, less-than-nameable instantiation of itself. Thus, WE don't encounter a social world of decadence or advance. We ARE ALREADY a social world, but only in the minimal sense of social as a figure of two, not as inside-outside or even yet presence-absence, and thus not yet capricious.

What is the importance of this understanding of the social as a less-than-definitive space of affectivities? The apparent redundancy and boredom we are tempted to attribute to a social realm impinging upon us from beyond us, or that Derrida attributes to an otherness within us, is in fact generated by an us whose experiential movement (and it is really less than a movement that we are dealing with) does not distinguish between the anachronistic and the progressive, the absent and the present. We must understand the example of being disappointed and bored by a cultural production in the same terms that we investigated the issue of disappointment and boredom more generally. Not only must boredom be recognized as a species of novelty rather than of stasis, but it must be seen as being on an absolutely equal footing with notions like excitement and joy; these and all other terms are made equal through our inability to know what they could mean other than that they each carry forward the barest hint of new sense. It is meaningless to ask why this rather than that experience confronts us; a world cannot be arbitrary, capricious or in tension if its being, as being-two, is exhausted in instantiating that it merely IS. Still, we could say that there is a `logic´ to the order in which one sense-affect follows the next in our experience. It would not be an order of content that we could affirm as a `why this rather than that´ but rather of contentlessness furthering. That is to say, whatever occurs in particular has in common with any other occurrences a profound gentleness born of dearth of effect, name or force. For this reason the relationship between the supposed anachronistic and advanced in culture reduces itself to something less than any determinable plane of variation . Recognizing this, we can turn our attentions back to the names-without-definition that pass as (that we generate as) cultural forms and their vissicitudes, directing an attitude of amused empathy toward situations that seem to want to be called `decadent´.

What, then, is left of the meaning of an avant-garde or cutting edge after our unravelling of the developmental illusion, which we have done by demonstrating the transformative basis of the apparently redundant and outdated? For the purposes of preliminary analysis, we have allowed ourselves the indulgence of thinking of our cultural involvement with others in terms of relative momenta of progress and regress, but such terms would not capture the fineness of this always new less-than-nameable particularity. The slanting self-continuity of any history as less than new names would explain the `decadent´ turn of a creative mode, as we experience it, as the emergence of a new modality. A trajectory of philosophical progression that we attempt to discern in the world would reveal itself upon closer inspection as a variegated texture of momenting bringing into play multiple cultural modes forming not a closed circle but a topography of always contiguously new instantiations of more, beyond, two. Whatever seems to interrupt or derail such a progression is its furtherance.

Thus a philosophy's or an art's or a science's so-called classic or decadent moments stand on equal ground with its supposed triumphs. To attempt to follow a self-same advance would seemingly be to move from renaissance to decline, from a certain treatment of art to that of science, from a particular notion of politics to business and to variations of seeming climax and decline within these modes. A decadence `within´ a cultural mode could now be understood as a shift to another mode. The poor example of a painting is a new philosophy of painting; it evinces a seeming familiar poverty of talent that nevertheless never before existed and whose apparent failing and decadence cannot be subsumed under any extant hierarchy. To say that it fails our criteria is to simultaneously transform our criteria and the notion of failure so that all that is left for us to realize in our interrogation of the `failed or decadent´ work of art is an experience of a less-than-definable same-new sense. Whatever `negative´ terms we are tempted to use, in circular fashion, to express our distaste for what repulses us make no purchase on definitive sense, any more than could terms of `satisfaction´.

And furthermore, we realize that there is no categorical integrity left to the notion of a modality, as if there were a privileged way to define such a thing as a modality, even in a relationship invented from event to event as more or less gathered-concentrated or dispersed-exhausted. A mode could register nothing more self-persistent or extensive than the instant of an edge of sense. Moment to moment, there would be nothing but shifts in modalities (self-transformations) because to be a mode would be only to effect a most unformidable non-present-to-itself spacing. This seeming discontinuity is no departure but the very essence of meaning's less than continuous or discontinuous trail as always (less than) other names.

The order which expresses the way in which now this cultural mode and now that one, now this regurgitation of a `past´ thinking and now that one, impinge upon me in my successive encounters of individuals originates as, and never has the chance to exceed, the order which characterizes each event of experience of any kind. What is this to say? The cultural particular has no place, no home, ground or origin, other than the instant that we utter its definitionless name, which emerges not as an interruption or effacement of what preceded it but as an impossibly gentle continuance of that history. We then watch it (us) immediately alter itself(ourselves).

Something like cultural modes of creativity would originate as an order of affective vicissitudes, as less-than-nameable, non-recuperable styles of articulation or momenta of engagement. All modes-moods-senses are the momenting of a local, contextual historicality. We can note the way in which our interests shift over the course of moments from one style of engagement to another, from an appreciation of music to dance, from an acute visual sense to a desire for poetic expression, from a scientific mode of inquiry to what we might want to name as philosophical style of thinking, whatever that might mean contextually to us. Boredom becomes interest which becomes delight which becomes nostalgia, and so on. At the same time, these terms of affect tell us nothing definitive.

Terms like style of articulation and momenta of engagement, like all names, are themselves non-recollectable. They fix no locale and no definable sense other than meaning's order, which is not the order of a stable series of names, but of a space of (less than) radical self-similarity which is itself as always a same-new, barely registering mark of moreness, less than any definitive or quasi-transcendental sense (even same-new or self-similar).
The rhythm of momenting would interweave itself before one could ever capture as nameable senses Other and I, pleasure and pain, affirmation and absence, regardless of how carefully they are typed onto the page. I cannot even say, then, that the encounter with another plunges me into gentle participation with their lugubriously slow and unknowing regurgitation of what I recognize as a cultural past. I cannot any longer claim to know (and never did) what senses of affect-effect adjectives like plodding, lugubrious or lurching identify. It is not that they are too strange, too other, but that they are too insignificant and familiar to justify my claiming to encounter them, or that there is even an encounter of me and other in the first place. A momenting which evades quasi-transcendent labelling as proximity-distance has no room for self-other in any form. Neither does it have room for trace of eventness as immediate play or simultaneity of imbecilic presencing-absencing. All that ever speaks is twoness, and this does not repeat, for in order for there to be repetition there would have to be more than twoness. There would have to be content which depends on a comparison outside of twoness, a comparison between events. But twoness never had the resources to allow for a notion of more or other, of difference and sameness.

As we have said, all that could be known about the world is already utterly exhausted in the experience of `two´, not as coupled or withdrawn, in play or opposed or in tension. The tricks we use to give ourselves the illusion that we gaze upon a world of affectively charged spaces, patterns, bodies in relation unravel upon closer examination to reveal no definitive substance or content framing the intervals that mark the world. There would be the twoness of edge without difference. And the trick that would give the impression that this edgeness of the world manifests itself as interval upon interval, edge upon edge, as an endlessly repeated multiplicity of variation and texture; fails when it is deprived of the meaning of memory, of `looking back´. There would be two, and that is all we can or need know or be. It is as if there would only have ever been a first moment of time; not an eternal return of that moment but a never having left.

It is important to emphasize that all that we have said concerning the non-recuperative, non-privileged effect of a word like anachronism does not deprive us of the luxurious order of familiarity and proximity which we first articulated as my construal of another's thinking as belonging to a less desubstantialized `past´ thread of ideas. Yes, we have said that such a thread, any thread, is always (barely) the same-new thread, the same-new story of genesis. But we understand the nature of this horizon most penetratingly, and we only move beneath the solidity of an alterity or deconstructive trace, when we are able to see the link between the bipartite poles of meaning´s point of departure from itself as less than a rupture, as the essence of a most radically desolidified twoness. It is this profoundly groundless intimacy which is at the heart of our reference to the anachronism of the other, and which is preserved even after our clarifications concerning the ungroundedness of such an expression as anachronism.

return to index


(return to index)

By way of a strange conclusion, we want to bring a final set of questions to the table. We earlier wrote that meaning's double structure could not be a pure identity as long as a world exists; to make this edge a unity would be to eliminate this mark which generates a world through its duplicity. Signification must allow itself an infinites­imal dissymmetry, a twoness, in order that the trace­ness of history may appear. But what if twoness itself has no basis, no history, and a world has never made an appearance at all? How could this be; what sense would it make to write of never having actually written or think of never having thought or ever being able to do so? We have said that two doesn't become, it doesn't repeat. It only happens once, which is to say, there is only the two, as the first and only moment of time. If two only happens once, if it has no other to compare it to, if it is not itself part of an edge, how do we know it exists? How does it know, how does it mean without reference outside of itself? What we're getting at is, if twoness is so solipsistic, how far away is it from simply declaring that there is no world, no twoness?

Lets put the issue differently. What is it we have said concerning the structure of a less-than-quasi-transcendental twoness, as the origin and end of experience, which prevents it from slipping into non-existence? In essence, we have made the claim that the minimal requirement for existence is the referential being of two figures, even if this reference is not justifiable as something like the differential trope of presence-absence. And what does this imply? We want to suggest that even this insubstantial form of reference continues to rely on a notion of substance which must PRECEDE its partner. In other words, there would have to be a first notion of presence, of mood-standing-for, in order for any idea of duplicity to make minimal sense. The difficulty suggested by such a presencing would not be resolved by claiming its dependence on an irreducible structure of reference to another such presencing. Defining an element by reference to another element is still the exposure of singularities.

This leaves us with the paradox that an element by itself can have no justification, no being, no effect, but at the same time we insist that it functions in an originary pairing, a double which takes place before there can ever be thought a single. The question which we must ask, then, is: In asserting an origin of experience in bivalence, are we really succeeding in placing the figure of two before that of one? We have said that we don't know what each figure of a bivalence means, and reference to the other does not help us, except to contribute a circle of mutually defined no-meaning. That which has no meaning is defined by reference to that which has no meaning.

Just because we don't know what an element means in any particularizable or nameable fashion doesn't prevent its pairing with another such unnameable from having the minimal mood, sense or effect of being-two, does it? Ah, but perhaps it does if by not knowing a thing, we don't know what its relation to another would be, what relation would mean, what another would mean. In other words, our not-knowing a thing would be finding it devoid of the minimal requirement of sense or effect necessary in order to locate for us something like a structure of reference.

Despite what we assumed earlier, there may be no way to assert a notion of reference without inherently implying a thinking of difference. In other words, to think `this and that´ may depend irreducibly on a thinking of `this not that´. To know oneself as a couple would require the capability of recollection, of turning back to one´s partner and see it as no longer, effaced. Memory would be the bridge justifying a thinking of `two-at-once´. We need to examine now why even the most minimal idea of reference may demand a concept of memory, and why such a concept relies on knowing transcendentally the meaning of presence and absence, affirmation and negation. (As we pointed out, terms like presence and absence can no more know what they mean, in any transcendent sense, than can terms like red and blue).

We have already seen this crumbling of the possibility of names. We said there would be two, and we never can or need distinguish anything else about these poles in terms of any name of reference or difference, such as affirmation or negation. But HOW do we know that there are even poles, an edge, a dissymmetry or hinge? To use them is not to know HOW we do this (`How´ not as procedure but as affirmation of two). It is not to know whether there is any justification for an edge, a twoness, a world. We can speak and think a world without it having existence or justification. We have already said about our notion of two that there is nothing definite we can state concerning meaning, not even enough to stably use a name like two. Meaning is not justified, not existing, not any definitive name or mood or trace. If it is not any definitive or nameable senses, it is still that which we speak of, point to, carry on. But does even this minimal capability crumble upon closer inspection?

If a notion of twoness has no names for its poles, we could nevertheless say that twoness is a notion of reference or `defined by´ in which there would be no effect or content other than an absolutely minimal `being defined by´. If it would be meaningless to talk about a particular `way´ in which there would be two, there would still be meaning. Even if there would be no recuperable, definitive names for its poles, something like a double would nevertheless be a minimal ability to speak, to think, to mean. It would go on and on and on (or at least twice) as nothing definitive, nothing nameable, nothing consequential, nothing at all except a going on. But how does it know it goes on? If poles of a duplicity are no longer definitive and nameable as presence and absence, affirmation and negation, etc., then how is reference itself nameable as such, even as less than a symmetry, less than an asymmetry, less than a dissymetry?

If there are no poles, there is no reference, but if there ARE poles, then there is a beginning, a first, a presence, a mood, which could never justify itself by itself in order that it then define another. What about our insistence that twoness is not the meeting of sensible singularities such as presence and absence, that `twice´ would be before a thing and its relation, before the moodiness of a presencing-absencing trace? Even to argue the less-than-nameability of doubling´s poles is to attribute to them a certain minimal in-itself moodiness. There would be an in-itself, a first, even when we don´t know what first means in any comparative sense. When a beginning is declared, a first `it´, we (we not as humans or subjects but as this plurality itself) `simultaneously´ appear as a world of reference. But everything would hinge on, be no more meani ngful than, this firstness. When we say that there is another, it is the implicit result of a theory or claim we make that there would be an in-itself, an effect, a consequence. A second could not confirm either the existence of a first or its own existence if the existence of the first were not already assumed on the basis of nothing other than itself as a pure faith in meaning.

We can't claim that twoness would be a simultaneity before it is any single in-itself sense because simultaneity depends on a pair of distinctnesses. As such the possibility of simultaneity, asymmetry, twoness, reference would seem to require a thinking of order in the guise of a first and second poles. `Two´ depends on a notion of memory; to be a second is to remember a first. But we have said that all terms, including memory, past, nostalgia, locate no recuperable meaning, no definable aspect. To remember would be to further, which would be to register `more´. But this more could no longer be thought of as `more´ or a repetition if it `knows´ only as a minimal, non-recuperable in-itself. To mean or be something like a `second´ or `twoness´ would be to constitute a first. There would be no possibility to do the very thing that a meaning, even as trace, claims to justify itself by: make reference to another. By wanting to define a first by `reference´ to a first, we cannot hold onto something like reference as a knowable meaning. The instability of reference would not be the chaos and contingency of that which is too much to be limited, but of that which is too meaningless to be pointed to. `We´ (as plurality) are not needed as a meaning. Twoness would not be an order, either of succession or simultaneity, because it cannot know what reference means. And if it does not know what reference means, then it does not know what twoness means. There would never be a point where anything definitive can or need be said, not even that there is something going on or that there is two.

Without reference, meaning would be less than a first. If a first indicates a second, then meaning would be an only, an in-itself in an eternal state of non-differentiation. It would be deprived of all sense, all particularity and in fact would never have begun to be. The instant of the firstness of a `there is´ is an eternity which never escapes itself and so is meaningless, without differentiation or effect, without beginning. Why would it matter whether there would be deemed a first or whether there would not be deemed a first, whether there would be a world or not be a world? What would a first establish and justify `in itself´ that would be any more substantial than a never-having-been? If we say that `there is´ because there is another, reference, accompaniment, difference, trace, a going on, are we not requiring something of meaning, of us, that we can't, and more importantly, don't need to know? There would be no thing, no edge, no two, no one, no meaning, no we. It is only as a convenience, then, that we have proceeded as if there were a world. The origin of the world would be that which was never allowed to begin.

By no-meaning and no world we do not conjure some notion of a nirvana which thinks itself as that which transcends or denies the flux of a remembered world in an act of asceticism. No-meaning would not be a beginning, a referencing, a recollection, an escape, a transcendence, a denial, an achievement, a result or completion of something else. To be no meaning would be to never have accessed a beginning, an edge, a difference, a repetition, a world in any way, not even as something like past or memory; it would be never to have begun. The astonishing thing is that it is possible to experience a world and yet realize its basis and origin in this `not being able to begin´, without these alternatives violating or otherwise being in tension with each other.

Name Index:

Bennington, Geoffrey:9,10
Blanchot, Maurice:105,106
Caputo, John:4-11,15,16,19,22,109
Chomsky, Noam:4
Crowther, Paul:108
Deleuze, Gilles:2,10,22,105
Derrida, Jacques:2-5,7,9-30,32-35,41,53,54,61-63,67,68,72,78,86-88,95,96,104-106,109,
Dilthey, Wilhelm:101
Foucault, Michel:34,41,67,103,105,106
Freud, Sigmund:67
Gasche, Rodolph:7
Gendlin, Eugene:17
Gergen, Kenneth:9,16
Glendinning, Simon:5
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm:2,34,37,41,46-50,87,107-109,
Heidegger, Martin:2,18,23,31,34,41,63,64,67,69,99
Hofstadter, Douglas:9
Husserl, Edmund:100
Jameson, Fredric:103
Kant, Immanuel:2,34,45-50,69,107-109
Kierkegaard, Soren:34,41
Kristeva, Julia:105
Lacan, Jacques:4
Levinas, Emanuel:41,63,64
Levi-Strauss, Claude:4
Lyotard, Jean-Francois:2,4,9-11,15,22,37,103,105,106,109
Maturana, Humberto:9
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice:18,37
Nancy, Jean-Luc:4,10,11,13,15,22,72
Nietzsche, Friedrich:2,37,41,49,50,63,64,103
Oliva, Achille:103
Penrose, Roger:100
Saussure, Ferdinand de:4
Spinoza, Baruch:34,47
Vattimo, Gianni:103
Wittgenstein, Ludwig:2,5,6,16

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Gergen, Kenneth:Realities and Relationships:Soundings in social constructionism.Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press(1994).

Glendinning, Simon:On Being With Others.New York:Routledge(1998).

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm:Phenomenology of Spirit.Trans. A.V. Miller. Oxford:Oxford University Press(1977).

Heidegger, Martin:Being and Time. Trans.John Macquarrie,Edward Robinson.New York:Harper and Row(1962).

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Lyotard, Jean Francois:The Inhuman:Reflections on Time.Stanford:Stanford University Press(1991).

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Nietzsche, Friedrich:Beyond Good and Evil.Trans.Walter Kaufmann.New York:Random House(1966).

Oliva, Achille:The international trans-avantegarde. FlashArt,104,36-43(1982).

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