Friday, November 10, 2006


If Deleuze is right that philosophy is about creating concepts, then I wonder if I will ever be a philosopher, because the simplest concepts stupify me. Lately I've been ruminating on concepts of thinking, being, life, the body, the subject, the world. I don't know what these concepts mean, not conceptually, not with any certainty. I don't have knowledge of them, don't know what such knowledge would resemble or how it could be described. I read descriptions and occasionally offer some of my own, but they remain provisional in my mind. I'm not dead certain about anything I write here. Even my recent disagreement with Judith Butler, which I feel strongly about, really boils down to little more than a sense that the kind of evidence that would support her assertion isn't the kind of evidence that would matter; it's a question of having the right perspective about what is originary in experience, and while I can't say exactly what the right perspective is, I feel I can recognize a strong claim such as hers as being dubious, as not being true to life. That's not a whole lot offer, I know.

Nontheless I remain open to creative philosophical concepts, and I take some pleasure in reading and sharing those with you. So allow me to mention "passibility," as understood by Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard ("Something Like: 'Communication....without Communication,' in The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, pp. 108-118). Passibility is neither an activity nor a passivity, but rather a feeling, a possibility of experiencing (pathos) that presupposes a donation (pp. 110-111). This feeling is "the immediate welcoming of what is given" (p. 111).

Lyotard is talking about aesthetic sentiment, but I wonder whether this mode of experiencing (pathos) isn't more generalizable. It's not perfectly clear. Lyotard states that the donation, equivalent to what Heidegger calls Being, "which is experienced before (or better, in) any capture or conceptualization gives matter for reflection, for the conception, and it is on it, for it, that we are going to construct our aesthetic philosophy and our theories of communication" (p. 111). Now is this passibility then the inauguration of a philosophy of the aesthetic or an aesthetics of philosophy? Perhaps it depends on what we make of his emphasis on the word "in." In one sense the conceptual, philosophy's stock-in-trade, becomes like so much gift wrapping, an inversion of the priveleged relation of concept over style.

Should philosophy be disconcerting? If so, there's a lot to be said for Lyotard's passibility. But even then I don't know what to make of gift wrapping. People handle it in all kinds of ways, and I can't say any one of them is the only right way to do it. Here's Lyotard to walk it home:

Passibility: the opposite of 'impassibility'? Something is not destined for you, there is no way to feel it. You are touched, you will only know this afterwards. (And in thinking you know it, you will be mistaken about this 'touch.') We imagine that minds are made anxious by not intervening in the production of the product. It is because we think of presence according to the exclusive modality of masterful intervention. Not to be contemplative is sort of an implicit commandment, contemplation is perceived as a devalorized passivity.

(p. 118)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:52 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Deleuze's definition (in 'What is Philosophy'??)sets the bar v. high. I'm not sure I will ever invent a concept.

Isabelle Stengers once told me she thought Whitehead was truly innovative....something to do with his concept of god.
I think Raymond Ruyer, who Deleuze and Guattari refer to in the conclusion to What is philospophy, was pretty creative with his concept of 'absolute surface'.
Guattari was v. keen on Daniel Stern's work on child 'development'.
Please excuse this ramble,

November 14, 2006 1:35 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I added Stengers' Power and Invention to my wish list. Most of her work seems to be untranslated--Maybe you should get busy ;)

I've read some of your writing, Paul, and it struck me as remarkably inventive. I'm really looking forward to reading The Primacy of Semiosis. It should be here next week.

Daniel Stern looks interesting to me too. I want to look at The Interpersonal World of the Infant and The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. How is it that you know what I want to be reading before I do?

November 14, 2006 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've got a v. big wish list!
Isabelle does have other stuff translated. P&I was a collection of early essays. It's good but the later stuff is v. good.
I think 'Cosmopolitiques' must now be translated and the Whitehead bk 'Penser avec Whitehead'/Thinking with Whitehead.

I don't know what you could be reading of mine - there's not much out there. Perhaps the 'subjectless subjectivities' piece..
The bk is basically a thesis i finished in 2001. I wrote it to be read and didn't make that many changes. It has some good stuff in it but there is one chpter that is a bit too exegetical and comes from an earlier more immature writing period.
Because it was a thesis it is more conservatively written than some pieces but I did try to make it readable and sometimes amusing...I never studied phil. at university.

If you know what someone's reading it's not difficult to predict what they would like or where they will go fishing.

November 15, 2006 11:51 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Yeah, my wish list is too big. Thank heaven for interlibrary loans. I've got Stein's books and some Stenger titles on the way. Maybe I won't need to buy them all. I am kind of fascinated by the subject of Power and Invention, so who knows.

I read an essay of yours that was available online. Can't remember now exactly what that was. I do remember that it was difficult--sent me scurrying for the dictionary--and highly original.

I never studied philosophy in a university either. It's not a criterion I use to judge the quality of a thinker or whether a book speaks to me.

November 15, 2006 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isabelle Stengers is a great writer and original thinker. She is also good fun and a fan of Starhawk - the ecological 'witch'.

You might be interested in Mario Crocco's 'Palindrome' - somewhere on the Argentinian website:
I think he is about as original as it comes...
but hey, how much can we read - the challenge is always the choices we make and the time we have....
I don't read much at all these days...
Would like to write/read more and await a text from Mario to edit.

Btw, Jacob Needleman is a Gurdjieffian - a big influence on me - but not so much from books...

Do you have children ... curious about your interest in Stein..


November 15, 2006 10:59 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Check your email, Paul.

About Needleman--Small world. I'm sort of amazed at how you've been able to avoid doing phenomenology, but then there's a lot of interesting stuff floating around out there. Crocco is definitely interesting to me, but a little difficult at this precise moment. Something to look into in the near future.

November 16, 2006 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I may have exaggerated about 'phenomenology' - whatever that is.
I have read a little Heidegger, M.Ponty and a teensy bit of dear Husserl (the Crisis and maybe something else). But ultimately it can't really get out of itself. Deleuze has some good lines on phen. in 'The Logic of Sense.' It took me about 6 years to start to realize the importance of Mario.
If you look at Massumi's anthology 'A shock to thought' you'll find my early piece on Ruyer - and a reference to Mario and company - and that was a while ago....
Just bought a 23yr old Kombi campervan...I own a piece of history now.

November 16, 2006 9:23 PM  

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