attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Tag: indifference

The stoic as pessimist

The Stoics held that thought was the cause of all suffering, while others like the Buddha, Schopenhauer, Zapffe, Cioran (the whole pessimist gamut) held otherwise. Life itself, existence in this form, this conscious modality, is the cause of all suffering. This is the veil of tears. This is the thesis that seduces many into a subjectivist nihilism, or a resignation. This is the first, the only, noble truth. And from whence does its nobility spring? Are we to think that because it fell from the Buddah’s lips that it is noble? No. It’s nobility is not that of the highborn or the superior, it is the nobile of ‘gnobilis’, the knowable. It is what we come to know. It is the irrevocable knowledge that precedes the writings of any and all traditions, that precedes the production of a system of notation to inscribe meanings on page, on rock, on skin. It is knowledge that precedes even the birth of meaning, and which survives it in death. It is noble because it is always and everywhere the first knowledge; it is what life necessarily comes to know. The neonate’s primitive scream; the President’s tears after gunshots in an elementary school, and the children who ran to hide; the battle fields, the urban squalor, the inherited evolutionary itch to fight, to flee, to erect dwelling and cower (in comfort admittedly) from the elements. Suffering is what life comes to know irrevocably.

Some would say the function of art, and all aesthetics maybe, is to deliver us from suffering- to provide a salvic operation on what we have discounted as our ‘soul’. Beauty is born to soothe us, to raise us above the murk and mess and mulch of darkness, pain, and the compacted rot of corpses we call our history, our present. And I won’t dispute that. What do I know that those greater minds didn’t?

But the Stoics. They refused to characterise existence as suffering. We suffer to the extent that we acquiesce to the events that we take as the external source of our suffering. Writ large: we suffer because we don’t know how to be indifferent to the fact of life, to living. It was this that allowed them, or at least some of their contemporary interpreters, to make the illegitimate move of thinking that life is, in the words of one such modern Stoic, ‘amazing, incredible, wonderful’.

But then, it’s undeniable that beauty is produced by suffering. This isn’t to say that all who suffer produce beauty (and nor is it to say that beauty transforms  suffering- the beautiful and the merely pretty don’t necessarily coincide). It is simply to say that suffering appears necessary for the beautiful to emerge in conscious life.

So what have we said? That life is suffering. That the living suffer. That suffering is the fertilizer of the production of beauty. That the beautiful might elevate us, however fleetingly, from our condition. So don’t we have sufficient ground to say with the contemporary Stoic, who is surely exceeding his ancient Masters, that life is amazing, incredible, wonderful. In short, beautiful. Beauty, after all, is not opposed to ugliness but to the bland.

The pessimist  can find in life, in death as idea and as materiality (as corpse), some beauty. Likewise the pessimist need not be viewed as the dour and miserable or the cold and distant. The pessimist is overwhelmed sometimes by the world, not just in its aspect as source of suffering but also as source of beauty- because that is the same.



Thesis on radical denial

A capsule form of the radical denial, a proposition:

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to destroy it. This is the road to an (ir)realism that confronts us with the malignant indifference of cosmos.

An indifferent and arrogant reply to Christian Thorne

Henceforth, the term ‘political ontology’ will be met only with derision. This is the decree of every object, and I embrace my own object-existence. Politics might not have a leg to stand on…but isn’t that what makes it political? We used to fret about the aesthetisation of poltics…maybe we ought to realise that all our Visions and declarations are a matter of aesthetics. Why else would people still call up the meaningless name of Revolution? There is no reason, except for the nostalgia of a Form that has been surpassed.

While we argue the basis of our politics, the stars still burn out, the oceans still rise. Let us acknowledge the simplicity of things: we want to feel good and we do not want to die…the rest is aesthetics and a question of who and what we include in this ‘we’, a pronoun which is impertinent whoever speaks it.

The names for things are like the stars…they flash into existence and burn brighter or dimmer before they are of their own accord finally extinguished. Ontography, onticology, object-oriented philosophy, vital materialism, eliminative materialism, nihilist naturalism……………whatever, whatever… let the system builders have their names.

I echo that old anarchist, Renzo Novatore…. my priniple is Life and my end is Death.

What else can I legitimately say of myself and of anything that may come forth from me, embedded in multiple systems that are themselves living and on their way towards death.

Everything is catastrophic. So let’s give birth to a new nomenclature: pessimistic potentialism; ontocatastrophism; moribund materialism; exhaustionism; indifferential ontocartography; autopsy vitalism. These names are as serious and as ridiculous as those given to any other philosophical movement. They are, in a stolen phrase, my own nonsensical philosomemes.

If melting icecaps aren’t to be affirmed, perhaps its because they hasten death, they hasten an Inevitability. We can of course choose the Inevitable…and in many ways that is precisely what we should do.

If this isn’t much of a reply it is perhaps because I’m not defending the position that Thorne has attacked… I’m not defending anything at all. What is left that is worth defending?

Autopsy vitalism. Isn’t that poetic?

No man is a ward unto himself

Life is a hospital in which every patient is possessed by the desire of changing his bed. One would prefer to suffer near the fire, and another is certain he would get well if he were by the window. – Baudelaire.

It is easy to detect here the haughtiness of a spiritual aristocrat who has realised the folly and absurdity of the majority of our unfortunate species. But that would be a misreading. Baudelaire doesn’t say that life is like a hospital or that human beings treat it as such. He says that it is such. Should we risk ontologising metaphors? Is the hyperbole of lyricism warranted? Where would that lead us? Only to the stupefying recognition that this is the condition of our life. Indifference to sex, to revolution, to history and utopia may always elude us. If you find yourself in hospital you better learn to make demands of the doctors and nurses, or take control of your own pain relief, otherwise you might well find yourself hacked up by lunatic surgeons.

Baudelaire isn’t taking pot-shots at the stupidity of people, but merely is expressing a resignation that desire is never finally vanquished.

What’s worse than the undecidable?

Derrida’s only true insight was that ethics lies in the experience of a certain failure: I don’t know what is happening, I don’t know what to do, I can’t decide. This also reveals the reason that ethics and politics are separable, why they fail to gel neatly together in a bloodless fashion. Politics lies in the experience of a certain success: I know what is happening, I am in among it, I can’t help but decide. Which of these is more terrifying? The difficulty is that these two moments so often coincide.

Beneath both of them is the experience of indifference. Neither ethical nor political, indifference knows only the burden and the paradoxical frivolity of all decisions.

In Difference

All biophilosophy vacillates between Zhuangzi and Epictetus; between the ‘calm chaos’ of indifferent Life and the impossibility of a lived fidelity to such an indifference.

What is this life that agitates Life itself? I am a distant neutrality that remains bound to the dank craving of visceral existence. To not need to change position; to never again have to digest; to remain silently in one place; to never again make a judgement or distinction; the vegetative life.

An impossible wish, and ultimately undesirable to a creature of flesh and electricity. Even the inorganic fails to remain faithful.