nikki moore

Posts Tagged ‘hegel’

do iphones work in the black forest?

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 at 11:33 pm

though it may sound like heresy,

(nod, wink and yes, think the intro to G.K. Chesterton’s book Heretics)

i’d like to think Heidegger’s work on the temporality of spatiality in Paragraph 70 of Being and Time via Google Maps.  on an iphone.  in nyc.  

no use arguing for life in the provinces, here… or then again, without further ado:

70. The Temporality of the Spatiality that is Characteristic of Dasein

We must now make an existential-analytical inquiry as to the temporal conditions, for the possibility of the spatiality that is characteristic of Dasein – the spatiality upon which in turn is founded the uncovering of space within-the-world.  We must first remember in what way Dasein is spatial.  Dasein can be spatial only as care, in the sense of existing as factically falling.  Negatively this means that Dasein is never present-at-hand in space, not even proximally.  Dasein does not fill up a bit of space as a Real Thing or item of equipment would, so that the boundaries dividing it from the surrounding space would themselves just define that space spatially.  Dasein takes space in; this is to be understood literally.  It is by no means just present-at-hand in a bit of space which its body fills up.  In existing, it has already made room for its own leeway.  (p. 419 of Being and Time translated by Macquarrie & Robinson)

it’s a quick easy leap, i admit.  but it goes like this:

imagine yourself coming up out of one of new york’s many subway stations.  you’re headed to see a show, or perhaps meeting a friend at a bar or bookstore you’ve not been to before… whatever your destination, the point is you are going somewhere and you need to figure out how to get there.  you, like all good soon-to-be-directionally-challenged city dwellers, turn to google maps, courtesy of the iphone in your pocket.  

if you’ve done this before, you’ll remember that when the phone is still down in the subway station, and even when you are clearly above ground, there is often a few second’s delay between the moment when you, the little blue glowing orb, appear onscreen and the time when the map fills in around you.  in those moments it is you as blue orb on a grey field.  you might say dasein is in the process of worlding, in fact.  yet, as the map fills in, the world worlds and you, Dasein, are temporalizing space in the simple act of reading the map in hand.  because you aren’t just thinking space.  you are looking at city blocks, blocks that break up the landscape, or rather, that compose the landscape… and with composition comes cadence, comes tempo, comes time: as you think ‘each block is how many minutes away from the bar?’ you are temporalizing spatiality as the blocks spatialize temporality.

so far… well,

not so good: there is a serious flaw in this google maps argument, but until we get to it, we can cheat and imagine that it is in the above way that, ‘literally’ as Heidegger inveighs, “Dasein takes space in… In existing, it has already made room for its own leeway.” 


As Simon Critchley pointed out during his lecture on this section of Being and Time, the word leeway above is translated from the german word for something like ‘play space’.  whether we think play space as Lacan’s chess board or simply as a child would think a sand box, the very problem with the google maps example above is that Heidegger directly resists representational modes and separations such as I have set up by linking you, the recent subway exitee and soon-to-be walker, with a blue dot on a handheld screen.  rather than opening into and becoming play space via Dasein’s world worlding, the iphone gives us a picture of that process which is necessarily and detrimentally stilting and reifying.  Picking up with Heidegger mid-thought:

To be able to say that Dasien is present-at-hand at a position in space, we must first take [auffassen] this entity in a way which is ontologically inappropriate. Nor does the distinction between  the ‘spatiality’ of an extended Thing and that of Dasein lie in the fact that Dasein knows about space; for taking space in [das Raum-einnehmen] is so far from identcal with a ‘representing’ of the spatial, that it is presupposed by it instead.

the problem with my google map analogy is thus clear: the knowing holder of the iphone, standing above an appearing map is precisely the errant present-at-hand and ‘knowing’ entity Heidegger is working to explain around and away.  in order for the google map analogy to work, you would in fact have to be the blue dot.

and that is, oddly, easy enough.  

if you had left your phone behind, if you had never taken it from your pocket to begin with, if you had simply mounted the subway stairs and come out street level, you would have the same experience.  the city opens up around you, the sidewalk sections, the blocks, the buildings all create spatial cadence and tempo and there you are, Dasein, ‘taking space in’ and ‘breaking into space’.

despite Heidegger’s thieving language here (what’s with all the breaking and taking…?) this doesn’t mean that technology is the enemy.  as i began with Chesterton, and as Critchley articulated in his lecture on the above paragraph in Heidegger when he said there are at least two ways to read Heidegger on technology, we might agree that heresy is the true domain of the hipster, or rather, now, post-luther, simply that which is a cool re-instating of the orthodox.  


now, if i could find an iphone app to quickly orient us all through heidegger’s relationship to orthodoxy, well then, that might truly be time and space worth mapping.



something old something new…

In Subjection on January 20, 2009 at 1:09 am

written fall, 2008.

There are rare times when a thinker can both explicate and perform the subject of her own critique in writing.  The Psychic Life of Power is one such work, wherein Judith Butler both explores and performs the iterability of the subject by explicitly working in and through concepts from Althusser, Hegel, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud & Lacan and implicitly through Derrida.  Namely, Butler is working through the trope of the ‘turn’ as it is rooted in Louis Althusser’s exploration of the concept of interpellation, tracing and transforming it through the forenamed philosophers’ theories of subject formation into a bodied agent of political consequence[1].

To follow the strength of Butler’s argument, I would like to follow her performance of the iterable subject through the text (Psychic Life of Power) highlighting a few key concepts and moves therein.  But first, a few words on iterability.

While Butler is notably and professedly a Hegelian and Foucauldian, when interviewed at Berkeley in the 1990’s, Butler named Jacques Derrida as the greatest influence on her own body of work.  This influence, though unspoken in the Psychic Life of Power, is performed in Butler’s workings of what Derrida calls iterability.  Briefly and admittedly reductively, iterability can be thought as the ability of signs to be grafted into new and different contexts while both retaining a trace of their earlier meaning and taking on and forming new meanings in each new context, all the while displacing notions of origin or essence[2]. 

Moving back to the explicit terms of Psychic Life of Power, Butler deploys and employs the workings of Derridian iterability through multiple readings of a body/soul/subject trio, beginning with this trio’s appearance in Hegel’s work on the Unhappy Consciousness.  Here, in Hegel, Butler highlights the bodily subjection of the bondsman to the master where the body of the bondsman ‘performs’ as the extended body of the master in work and productivity.  As the bondsman realizes his own distinct presence in the work of his hands, i.e. in what he produces, he is confronted with the fleeting nature of both what is produced and himself as the producer. He is also faced with his own ongoing erasure as the Master takes credit for the work of his extended contractual body, i.e. the bondsman. In a move to repress this knowledge of death’s inevitability, as Butler writes it, the bondsman splits himself psychically into bondsman and master, performing a denial that echoes Freud’s death drive and Nietzsche’s aesthetic class whose subjectivity is formulated out of ressentiment.[3]

Moving from Hegel to Nietzsche, in chapter 2, via Freud, Butler draws on the violent foundations of morality in On the Genealogy of Morals and points to the inherent ressentiment in all artistic production. We all know the story here, how Nietzsche’s understanding of subject formation is rooted in the bad consciousness of the internalizing slaves, etc.  For Butler this story is important as it pinpoints the creativity implicit in the interiorization of the subject: “As a peculiar deformation of artistry (which is, of course, indistinguishable from its primary formation), self-consciousness is the form the will takes when it is prevented from simple expression as a deed.” [4]  While we might see Nietzsche’s Nobles as those able to express in deed rather than representation, Butler problematizes Nietzsche’s own work (and her own as well) as the results of aesthetic activity.[5]  Without resolving this suggestion that ressentiment is at the heart of all production, the body/soul/subject trio is reframed and recontextualizing in the shift from Hegel’s bondsman, to still a slave morality, but one which is founded in artistic performance and production.

Moving this iterable body/soul/subject trio through the work of Foucault, Butler locates a transmigration of the soul from interiority (as in Hegel & Nietzsche) to the subjectivated body of Foucault’s finding[6].  This necessary step, shifting the meaning of soul from an interior to an exterior formulation, gives Butler the now newly iterated context of performativity (specifically gender performance) that she will deploy in the final chapters of The Psychic Life of Power.  With one final recontextualization of the body/soul/subject trio through Althusser’s concept of interpellation, Butler has brilliantly managed to carve out space for a politically charged subject whose body performs both its own subjection and its most heightened possibility for freedom from that same subjection.  If you will follow Butler with me to p.99 in the text, she writes: “What is brought into being through the performative effect of the interpellating demand is much more than a ‘subject,’ for the ‘subject’ created is not for that reason fixed in place: it becomes the occasion for a further making.  Indeed, I would add, a subject only remains a subject through a reiteration or re-articulation of itself as a subject, and this dependency of the subject on repetition for coherence may constitute that subject’s incoherence, its incomplete character.  This repetition, or better, iterability thus becomes the non-place of subversion, the possibility of a re-embodying of the subjectivating norm that can redirect its normativity”[7]

Here, in Butler’s own words and rhetorical performance, iterable subjectivation finds its destination in the “incomplete redirecting of normativity”.  This redirecting was made possible by her own performative dislocations of the body/soul/subject trio as it is found in variation, through Hegel’s Unhappy Consciousness, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, Foucault’s theorization’s on the subjectivation of the body and Althusser’s working of the ‘turn’ or interpellation.  While the performative subject of Butler’s own critical iterabilities is not without flaws, equipped with the trope of the ‘turn’ and this iterable subject formation, Butler and others following her work, can and have formulated not only the politicized arm of Derridian deconstruction, but equally viable political subjectivities whose agency is both bound and formulated by the structures they are working to reconfigure.   What this does from, for, with and to Nietzschean ressentiment is now up for discussion.

[1] On the turn, Butler writes: “Considered grammatically, it will seem that there must first be a subject who turns back on itself, yet I will argue that there is no subject except as a consequences of this very reflexivity.” Butler, Judith.  The Psychic Life of Power. Stanford University Press, 1997. P. 68

[2] For Jacques Derrida’s full working and unworking of iterability, see “Signature, Event, Context” in Limited Inc, which is a compilation of writings between Derrida and John Searle on and around the concepts of speech act theory, first outlined by J.L. Austin in How to Do Things with Words.

[3] What is at stake here for Butler is both self-renunciation and performativity.  “The renunciation of the self as the origin of its own actions must be performed repeatedly and can never finally be achieved, if only because the demonstration of renunciation, whereby the performance, as an action, contradicts the postulation of inaction, that it is meant to signify.  Paradoxically, performance becomes the occasion for a grand and endless action that effectively augments and individuates the self it seeks to deny.”  Butler, Judith.  The Psychic Life of Power. Stanford University Press, 1997.  p.49

[4] Ibid, p.76

[5] Not that Nietzsche did not, indeed, recognize his own complicity in slave morality as well.  Numerous passages in the Genealogy of Morals find Nietzsche almost joyous over the results of artist production, including his own.  Butler not only recognizes this duplicity and complicity, she uses it to raise the stakes for the performative subject she seeks to iterate.

[6] For more on this transition from interiority to exteriority, see Butler, on the chapter “Between Freud and Foucault”.  The following quote, for the sake of brevity, may help illustrate the points she is working therein: 

       p.89 “In the final chapter of the first volume of The History of Sexuality, Foucault calls for a “history of bodies” which would inquire into “the manner in which what is most material and vital in them has been invested.”  In this formulation, he suggests that power not only produces the boundaries of a subject but pervades the interiority of that subject.  In the last formulation, it appears that there is an “inside” to the body which exits before power’s invasion.  But given the radical exteriority of the soul, how are we to understand “interiority” in Foucault?  That interiority will not be a soul, and it will not be a psyche, but what will it be?  Is this a space of pure malleability, one which is as it were, ready to conform to the demands of socialization?  Or is this interiority to be called, simply, the body?  Has it come to the paradoxical point where Foucault wants to claim that the soul is the exterior form, and the body the interior space?” [Italics, mine].

[7] Ibid, p.99.

is this negativity?

In Love, Subjection on November 21, 2008 at 1:06 am

infinitely demanding, the ticklish subject and now hegel’s phenomenology of mind, at least the introduction.

just quoting today from the latter (itallics mine throughout):

“The force of mind is only as great as its expression; its depth only as deep as its power to expand and lose itself when spending and giving out its substance” – p.9

“The living substance, further, is that being which is truly subject, or, what is the same thing, is truly realised and actual (wirklich) solely in the process of positing itself, or in mediating with its own self in transitions from one state or position to the opposite.  As subject it is pure and smple negativity, and just on that account a process of splitting up what is simple and undifferentiated, a process of duplicating and setting factors in opposition, which [process] in turn is the negation of this indifferent diversity and of the opposition of factors it entails.  True reality is merely this process of reinstating self-identity, of reflecting into its own self in and from its other, and is not an original and primal unity as such, not an immediate unity as such.  It is the process of its own becoming, the circle which presupposes its end or its purpose, and has its end for its beginning; it becomes concrete and actual only by being carried out, and by the end it involves.

The life of God and divine intelligence then, can be spoken of as love disporting with itself…” p.15

“What has been said may also be expressed by saying that reason is purposive activity.  Extolling so-called nature at the expense of thought misunderstood, and more especially the rejection of external purposiveness have brought the idea of purpose in general into ill repute.  All the same, in the sense in which Aristotle, too, characterizes nature as purposive activity, purpose is the immediate, the undisturbed, the unmoved which is self-moving; as such it is subject.  Its power of moving taken abstractly, is the same as the beginning solely because the beginning is purpose.  Stated otherwise, what is actual and concrete is the same as its inner principle or notino simply because the immediate qua purpose contains within it the self or pure actuality.  The realized purpose, or concrete actuality, is movement and process of development.  But this very unrest is the self; and it is one and the same with that immediacy and simplicity characteristic of the beginning just for the reason that it is the result, and has returned upon itself – while this latter again is just the self, and the self is self-referring and self-relating identity and simplicity.” p. 18