Saturday, November 24, 2007

Clothed Causality

Deleuze says, "the Epicureans did not succeed in developing their theory of envelopes and surfaces and they did not reach the idea of incorporeal effects, perhaps because the 'simulacra' remain subjected to the single causality of bodies in depth" (The Logic of Sense, p. 94). I'm not sure about exactly what problem Deleuze sees with causality, but he evidently does see a problem with causality as this would explain why he would propose thinking of two types of causality. I'll call the two types of causality naked causality and clothed causality after Deleuze's discussion of two types of repetition, because perhaps the problems and the ways of addressing them are similar. (Don't ask me whether clothed causality deserves to the name of causality, because I am just getting into this.) Naked causality is straight up causality, whatever that might be. Clothed causality Deleuze calls quasi-causality or ideational causality. It concerns how surface effects "cause" other effects. Deleuze associates clothed causality with immanence, which I presume to be neither naked nor clothed for the time being. The point Deleuze is getting to in this section ("Fourteenth Series of Double Causality") is that "[t]he foundation can never resemble what it founds" (p. 99). The impulse to think of causality as doubled, like the impulse to think of repetition as doubled, responds to an impasse encountered in the course of Deleuze's critical engagement with representationalism (or simply his criticism of the idea of the same), as I see it. Deleuze then says something that quite intrigues me. He says that the foundation is another geography without being another world (ibidem). Evidently he thinks of founding as a relation of clothed causation. A question I have, then, is whether this way of thinking, or deterritorial thinking generally, is a monism. More concretely, I wonder what can be said about the character of the world to which the foundation and that which it founds belongs. Further along those lines, I wonder whether theory in the human sciences in general, or anywhere people care about foundations, isn't driven by a curiosity about the character of such an inclusive world, and whether it can ever be definitively said that such a curiosity would be fruitless. What would it mean to say that such a curiosity is misplaced? Well, if one would never think such a thought from within a curiosity, does a project of curiosity nevertheless open itself to such a critical thinking, and must it embrace the possibility of fruitlessness, the utter failure of a curiosity. (A curiosity can never resemble a project of curiosity–problem solved?) What is the character of a paradigm that would put curiosities to the test?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:48 AM. 11 comments

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Habitation in the Open

Nancy says that freedom "is not pure spacing, it is also 'habitation'–habitation in the open–if the nomad does not represent errancy without at the same time representing a dwelling, and thus an ethos" (The Experience of Freedom, p. 146, Nancy's emphasis). Nancy's thought meanders towards enunciating a surprising generosity of being. I want to linger a moment here on the idea of habitation in the open. The open as such isn't given prior to habitation. We can speak of a dwelling being more or less open, the boxed in or the wide open. We can speak of a dwelling as being more or less in the open. In fact the decision for there to be any open at all was made with the act of dwelling. Yet who made the decision? If we're unhappy with the decision perhaps we should negotiate. Openness would have no business saying it's not open to negotiation. And habitation would be nowhere without openness. Let's hold that over its head.

A favorite image of Nancy's is the open mouth, the mouth opened in a cry. Should I reverse myself and say there is an opening given prior to habitation, an opening of the body? I don't know that the body isn't also a habitation. If we understand what it means to inhabit a building, we are able to witness the suffering that abides there, that seeps through its pores. Doors also open in laughter.

An ethos, then, does it demand that there be something like the open? Is the open the space where differences are negotiated? How would it be possible to truly inhabit a space of negotiations? Really, this has me turned around. Wouldn't it be a space of no secret places, but only promises and secrets of secret places? Is habitation as good as its word? And why would habitation give such a thing as the open? What's its angle?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:37 PM. 0 comments

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Improvisation and Creativity

Trombone solo by Chad Bernstein of the South Nine Ensemble:

Benson proposes that improvisation offers a clearer model for understanding historical cultural processes than either creation or discovery (The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue, Chapter Two). Benson's broad polemic against creativity is both obtuse and contrary to his expressed interest in phenomenology. The message he means to drive home is that an improvisational model of musical compostition is more "phenomnomelogically accurate" than a model of musical creation and (or because) it provides "a more balanced view of the relation between artist and community–one in which it is actually possible to see the artist as an integral part of the community" (p. 52). Benson's ambition is worthy, but he goes about it the wrong way. The critique he means to make should be directed against a certain ideology of the individual rather than against the creativity of individuals, which cannot be denied even if one chooses as examples, as Benson has, Shakespeare and Mozart. All individuals are creative. Likewise all communities are creative, though not in equal measure. One can imagine a community in which integration of its members amounts to stomping the life out of any florescence of individual creativity or any eccentricity, just as one can imagine a community that values and nurtures creative expression by its individual members to the point of disintegration. To understand how a community relates to artistic expressions by its members one must study the community, its values and its modalities of integration and of dialogue.

Eric Dolphy improvising on "God Bless the Child":

Improvisation, as described by Benson, is an admixture of imitiation and variation (p. 48). In my mind improvisation must also contain an element of spontaneous creativity, as Stephen Nachmanovitch argues (Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, more on which later). Cultural histories consist in more than variations on a handful of forms or themes. After Boas (Primitive Art) we might attend to the creation of meanings apart from and in addition to the creation of forms. Forms are recycled and broadly diffused, acquiring different meanings in different cultural contexts. Nonetheless cultural meanings are sometimes more supple than granite, and new forms are in fact created. It always remains possible for an individual to assign meanings creatively, regardless of convention or the opinions of the community at large. That said, a dialogical improvisational model seems more attuned to the creative process than a model of creation ex nihilo. And it seems evident, as Benson argues, that the emphases on originality and authorship are related to an emphasis on the autonomous work, which is limiting to say the least (p. 62). If we set aside an impoverished view of creation as being solely the creation of autonomous works ex nihilo by solitary figures, then we can see improvisational dialogue as a musically creative process, and perhaps the best model at hand for understanding music making in general.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:57 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm Scared

Alexei at New Times has started a lolphilosomopher competetion. The first subject is Hegel. The text on my entry is what happens when you type "I'm Scared" in an MSAM font.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:39 PM. 3 comments

The Body without Surfaces

Deleuze discusses the schizophrenic body as a body without surfaces (The Logic of Sense, "Thirteenth Series of the Schizophrenic and the Little Girl"). Since Deleuze has defined sense as taking place as an incorporeal surface effect, a body of pure depths must then by his reckoning be unable to touch on sense. Deleuze argues that the world of the collapsed surface has no meaning, that it can only have the signification of phoniness. And, he says that the word loses sense, which is to say it loses the ability to express "an incorporeal effect distinct from the actions and passions of the body, and an ideational event distinct from its present realization" (p. 87). My inclination is to regard as insightful the imaginations Deleuze diagnoses as schizophrenic, because words don't really have the power to express ideational events apart from the practice of making words. Of course Deleuze must be given credit for imagining that his logic of sense is phony, even if he doesn't fully embrace what he calls the schizophrenic at this point, and he wrongly regards a world of pure depths as meaningless. It must be imagined that thought and feeling are inextricable (music for instance prompts such a gesture), and that the body is their nexus.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:48 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Resentment of Existence

Nancy says, emphatically, "Evil is the hatred of existence as such" (The Experience of Freedom, p. 128). As it happens existence is met with a plethora of attitudes and emotions. Most of them are ambiguous. Indifference is ambiguous (I could say "ambivalent" to tip the scales). Emotionlessness may be a kind of banality, make of banality what you will.

I'm curious about, teased by, fine shades of malice. Would the contempt of existence be more or less evil than the loathing of existence? Contempt may be more bourgeois, for what it's worth.

Resentment (I'll mention "ressentiment" out of fondness for the Gaulish tongue) may be a bourgeois feeling, but the word itself has been a polyphiboly ampolyboly. I enjoyed delicious resentments at your party (the lamb kabobs, etc.), for which I thoroughly resent you. How did a word meaning "to feel deeply or sharply" come to overwhelmingly mean "to feel oneself injured or insulted"? What sadness and pain accretes to the joys we've shared? Does recent European history tell of the proliferation of inferiorities or of injuries? Well, there's only so much the history of a single word can tell us. Can "resentment" tell us that evil begins with the feeling of existence as such? That evil is neither simply pain or hatred, but the whole pithos of feeling? Can resentment tell us that? Nah.

But it's a strange thing to resent existence, no less so for its being ordinary. (Insert ontodicy here.) If we were completely at the mercy of our feelings it wouldn't make sense to speak of good and evil. An existence of pure feelings would be like early infancy, a time without memory, and yeah, innocent of evil and good. But I regress, which reminds that to yearn to be at the mercy of feelings can't be morally unambiguous.

Once we acknowledge that existence as such can be felt, perhaps even that it must be felt, then what is existence? Is its whatness a big impossible nada? Only if we're not attuned to our feelings. And yet the big nada hangs around with its friend passivity, and it looks like existence may be in with a bad crowd. Do I resent existence, or is it feeling I resent, pure feeling? Hmm, I'm just as sharply resentful of pure thought. The resentment of feeling as such can't be good, though it may have once seemed harmless enough. As it happens feeling is felt in a plethora of ways, most of them ambiguous.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:37 PM. 0 comments

Monday, November 12, 2007


A hard truth is that idealities are not omnitemporal but finite. (Maybe they're omnifinite.) It's a hard truth because our usual ways of understanding idealities assume something like omnitemporality. and so we are left with idealities that we don't fully understand and it seems that even our means of understanding are in question. We think as if idealites could be endlessly repeated and still retain their identities, almost as if we have to think that way in order to make any sense whatsoever of our cultural lives. Do we introject an image of ourselves as infinite beings into our idealities, even as we know ourselves to be finite, or do we project such an infinite being onto idealities only after we have reflected upon them? (One might say that the fantasy of the infinite being has nothing to do with idealities; I disagree, and that's why I'm at an aporia.) A split between thinking by idealities and thinking about idealities may be the only way to explain how we could be so vastly engaged in idealites and yet so abysmally misconstrue them. On the other hand, attending to such a split may actually avoid what needs explaining, which is one modality at least of the creation and destruction of meaning. If the meaning of an ideality is the sum total of its instantiations–I would rather say "improvisations" but I'm holding that word in reserve for a moment–then loss of meaning could be an effect of overuse as much as misuse or disuse. There's no dearth of ways for an ideality to lose meaning, to lose itself perhaps, or rather for people to lose it–and why not lose an ideality if it's lost its meaning? The pathways of human history are not only littered with lost idealities, they are themselves–well, if I told you, you might be offended. Let's just say that I personally feel an imperative to find my own way of getting lost. If you want to put an image to that, think of the Darjeeling Limited getting lost in the desert, a lemonade absurdity (or sweet lime as the case may be). The sourness of loss can be sweetened, which means that the infinite being is not merely a fantasy but also a tragic figure. Is the improvisor also a tragic figure? Maybe not so much.

Bruce Ellis Benson nicely summarizes Husserl's mature thinking about idealities in his book The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music (pp. 6-8). Although Benson says that music is a bound ideality–is the octave a bound ideality or a free ideality?–and includes an entry for Husserl's ideal objects in his index, he maintains a distance between his own thinking and his interpretation of Husserl. He identifies a musicological idea of Werktreue and relates this to idealities, but he suspends judgement. He means for a broadened understanding of improvisation to provide a critique of the notion of music as reproduction. Although the gate is open, I'm not sure how far off the Majuscular I Ranch he'll wander. Tellingly, Benson doesn't include free improvisation among the eleven senses of improvisation he identifies (though the list was not meant to be exhaustive). Investigating free improvisation would also mean investigating failure, and that would raise the questions of whether people prefer having idealities to losing them (and therefore to creating them) and why that would be so.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:16 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Another performance of the same tune, with Eric Harland replacing Al Foster on drums:

The first performance sounds better to me because of the intensity of the performers and because of the communication between them. They are all listening to each other and playing off of each other. Communication is especially pronounced in Hutcherson's last chorus and the beginning of Tyner's first solo chorus (Bobby Hutcherson plays vibes, McCoy Tyner plays the piano), but the entire performance illustrates a creative process of improvisatory musical dialogue.

Bruce Ellis Benson's The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music (Cambridge University Press, 2003) appropriates the idea of improvised dialogue to engage in a hermeneutics of a wider world of music making, in fact the whole world of music making, though he is not an ethnomusicologist, nor does he reference the ethnomusicological literature on improvisation. (I'll blog some of that ethnomusicology soon enough.) Benson intends to critique a notion of music as reproduction, and perhaps also music as repetition. Whether this will take him towards a deeper critique of reproduction or repetition I can't yet say. I'm hoping Benson's critique will suggest some ideas to me as I continue to think about repetition.

I'll be away from a computer for the rest of week. When I return I intend to dig into Benson's book. Also in the lineup:

  • Sartre and then Casey on imagination;

  • Kristeva on melancholia;

  • Cavarero on narrative;

  • More Nancy and then Derrida on Nancy;

  • Derrida on Husserl;

  • Attali on the labyrinth;

  • Merleau-Ponty and then Barbaras on Merleau-Ponty;

  • Hagi Keenan on "the hidden face of language";

  • Nagatomo on the body;

  • Assorted musicological monographs;

  • Anything I'm forgetting;

  • Anything that crops up, which it will;

  • Maybe some more math because I mean to do infinity to death;

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:03 AM. 2 comments

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Feel of Numbers

In talking about the feel of numbers I'm taking a cue from Dylan's latest post though naturally he is not to be blamed. Numbers are not all felt equally. Three feels different than four, two thirds feels different than three fourths, the passage from three to four feels different than the passage from four to three, and so on. Can these feelings be expressed in words? Could a Pablo Neruda definitively describe the feeling of a fanfare of perfect fourths and seconds? Ah, but poetry is anything but anaesthetic description, and we somehow expect that definition should be anaesthetic.

By "abstraction" we usually mean thought's drawing away from concrete reality, which implies drawing away from feelings. However, feelings may also be abstracted, ratiocinated, for an ability with ratios does not belong to thought exclusively. Even numbness has a coenesthetic quality, though we usually experience numbness as partial, that is, as a feeling. The abstraction of the feeling of numbers finds its elaboration in music.

In a musical moment thought and feeling may appear as one. In such a moment it still makes sense to speak of abstraction, though obviously not of an abstraction of feeling from thought. Music abstracts from habitual ways of enduring, durations long and short and marked by if not saturated in passions. In music we encounter the mutability of the passions. When we say "concrete reality" we should mean nothing less than the concretetion or the growing together of everything it takes to make a reality. When we draw away from concrete reality in one mode we encounter accidentals and modulations. We might note the imperfection or the fragility of drawing away from concrete reality. The accidental also whispers that an abstraction is a concrete experience and therefore a reality. Abstraction, to deserve its name, should teach us that reality is both evanescent and mutable.

If music is an abstraction of feeling, and feelings are mutable, is music pure permutation? Well, it's probably impure permutation as such, but given that, what kind of time is musical time? Does time exist in any way that is not an entwinement? (I can't help saying that the entwinement too is felt differently than the braid, even in English.) Things are getting a little crowded if I say that music can simultaneously be an abstraction of feeling, of thought, and of time. My point here is that abstraction is more crowded than we're allowed to realize.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:15 PM. 3 comments

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Diogenes at the Limit

I've been reading David Foster Williams Everything and More: A Compact History of ∞ which contains some discussion of Zeno's paradoxes. Here I'd like to say a word about the Dichotomy, and hopefully explain how a pluralist can believe in motion, that is, move and be immersed in world of motion without being paralyzed by doubt. I'd also like to say why I feel that Diogenes the Cynic, whose answer to the paradox was to silently walk, has been given short shrift.

The Dichotomy states that "that which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at its goal." That's incorrect. Motion, or any abstract continuum expressly meant to represent something like motion, does not have an intrinsic halfway stage or halfway point. Only a second step of abstraction can add a halfway point to a motion. Taking that second step creates two problems, the first being that one is likely to forget one is dealing with two distinct levels of abstraction, the second being that the abstractions involved may be incommensurable. Motions and divisions are separate realities. Lines and points are separate realities, though both may be brought together under the umbrella of geometry. A certain kind of infinity, Zeno's infinitiy but not all infinite sets, may be considered an artefact of incommensurability. A pluralist is not somebody who believes in the infinite divisibility of the world, but rather in there being multiple incommensurable worlds. There's no hidden monism behind pluralism, as Zeno wrongly suggests with his infinite divisibility. There's just more than one reality.

By remaining silent while he walked, Diogenes gave a brilliant answer to the Dichotomy. He demonstrated the existence of at least two realities: the logos and locomotion. The logos isn't the only reality that philosophy might be concerned with, though it might be said that the logos is the way philosophy concerns itself with various realties. Diogenes faults the way Zeno has deployed the logos. As easily as the logos can contain, it can be contained. Diogenes contained the reality of the logos with his silence. With his feet he not so much refuted or disproved the Dichotomy according to its own implicit terms (logic) as he demonstrated an alternative mode of being that one could, if one were so inclined, believe in. The existence of an alternative to the logos having been demonstrated, the Dichotomy is shown to be inadequate to the critical task it was meant to accomplish, viz., a critique of pluralism. This is not a case of common sense versus philosophy, but of philosophical error and correction. Diogenes was undoubtedly correct.

(There might be a paradox or inconsistency in the way I've argued this. Is Diogenes' walking merely an alternative to the logos, or, as a response to a riddle, is it therefore part of the of the logos? We could see the logos as expansive, perhaps bending its own rules as it encompasses more and more activity. That might suggest a kind of monism, a crumpled monism, if one were inclined to go looking for monisms (and if one weren't so inclined one might also speak of logoi). If the logos isn't so expansive, however, Diogenes' walking takes the measure of the logos in the sense that it marks a limit. That might suggest that different realities aren't so incommensurable. I don't think that's quite right, though, because marking a limit doesn't measure a reality so much as it signifies the existence of another reality. Can one criticize monism from outside the logos? Etymologically, "critical" (κρῐτῐκός) means able to discern, able to separate. (In fact the meaning of the logos may be a mirror of criticism, of sifting and separating.) It would be imperious to say that criticism can only happen within the logos. If I say, then, that Diogenes criticized Zeno at the limit of the logos, as I'm tempted to think, am I therefore accepting of Zeno's infinity?)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:30 AM. 0 comments

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Deleuze says that "paradox is the force of the unconscious: it occurs always in the space between (l'entre-deux) consciousness, contrary to good sense or, behind the back of consciousness, contrary to common sense" (Logic of Sense, p. 80). (One could almost say that consciousness occurs behind the back of consciousness.) As the list of things taking place behind the back of consciousness grows ever longer, the question arises, Is the separation of mental phenomena into consciousness and unconsciousness an unconscious decision?

I'm enthused about the idea of what occurs (always!) in the space between consciousness. I wonder, though, whether such occurrences can be adequately thought without thinking consciousness. Is consciousness extended? How one answers such questions will affect how one understands the space between consciousness. Similarily, if good sense moves from the most differentiated to the least differentiated and paradox (I might say learning) moves in both directions at once, what do we need to know about differentiation? Is it consciousness or unconsciousness that assigns differentiation to the either the conscious or the unconscious–or perhaps a space in between? In between what? I can't provide any definitive answers myself, just a few questions.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:44 AM. 4 comments