Friday, November 15, 2013

The In Infinitum and the Ad Infinitum

Continuous addition to some quantifiable thing constitutes the meaning of ad infinitum; one is called upon by this term to add to infinity (which is impossible to disclose). Given this meaning (numerable) it has been argued that there are no existing actual infinities, only potential ones; but this argument depends on supposing that mind constitutes world, which is false. A quick and easy way to see the fallacy in this thinking is to think about "all" the real numbers on a continuous line. Counting the whole numbers is not sufficient to account for these, and even if we were to do so, per impossible, we would still have to count between these, and between those, etc., in infinitum. This thought experiment is the key to understanding the paradox that summarizes Zeno. If we consider two members of a race and see that if the first is to get a head start, pure mathematics demonstrates with sound reasoning, that it is impossible for the second to catch up, even if the first is a turtle and the second a hare. Also, paradoxically, it is impossible to start; for if we are to start to move, we must pass through an abnumerable infinity; for we must pass through half before we take the first step, and half of that distance, etc., in infinitum.

The reason that I am bringing up these concepts is that in order to understand the difference between the qualitative and the quantitative, it is important to have these terms at the ready. In psychoanalytic theory, one is coded to function according to formed desires, with queer bodies exemplifying the transgressed limits of the code. Consider the garbage that is becoming a man. According to Klein, patriarchy encourages us, by virtue of the power of the phallus, to give up our desires to identify with our mothers (to see ourselves as having wombs and breasts) and to accept our roles in patriarchal society. Hence, prior to becoming men, we have queer desires: we perhaps see breasts as penises; but definitely, without doubt, our masculine bodies are attached in queer assemblages. The queer child learns to pass; and thankfully many unlearn this ridiculous apparatus of the organ that is building-civilization. According to Klein, these masculine desires (to be mother) are then sublimated in permissible forms of behavior, the most interesting example being the idea of a brain-child, which is all too masculine and totally an appropriation of the feminine rite to reproducing the conditions for life. So long as this form of creativity doesn't go against patriarchy, desires are permissible. So then what could it mean to follow desires that do go against patriarchy?

I want to say that to explore one's (un)bridled desires is to open oneself to the in infinitum; it is to reject the operation of ad infinitum--to acquire more of the same quantitative reality. It is to give the existing (truly unquantifiable) realities, a difference that makes a difference to practice, a qualitative difference because one's purpose is emergent and not top-down. It is to follow one's right to be whatever; to be uncoded, or at least to go against predictability in a way that follows one's affinities, which are never given and only hopefully solid. To add more in every possible direction in infinitum is to eclipse patriarchy's Son; for here we are (perhaps) in the production of the good--or at least, it cannot be said that such isn't healthy for us.

Marcuse (Eros and Civilization) imagines Art(desire) to be (not necessarily heterosexual) fucking in a field; yet he also pictures only a temporary unleashing of desire, even though his fear-relief comes out as a hope that one will grow tired if one is permitted to explore repressed desires. But why should we grow tired? Why should we grow up? Why should we not explode as a fire that never tires, like a forest fire, fueled by our own potential desires?  

Kant didn't have a term for the summation of the in infinitum, or possibility, because Kant used the Quanta as his countable infinity to account for space as a series of experiences. Here, the quantitative is clearly present; yet, the unquantifiable is always forever murky, precisely because we are not dealing with quantifiable realities. Possibility is good security culture for the obvious reason that one can thereby protect oneself from being let down, and even laugh joyously in the possibility of letting one's own self down.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Qualitative and the Quantitative

1. Affirming that more for less is better is the difference between the qualitative and the quantitative strikes this reader as reductive of the Qualitative. The Qualitative cannot be reduced to the Quantitative; for such is already also Quantitative. Heidegger in The Question Concerning Technology admits as much in that for him there is always the danger (Gestell) in altering the ends of technology. If technology is indeed calculative thinking and production, and such is required to permit being to bring forth, the truth of one's being to come forth, one's art to be produced, then the Quantitative is necessary. I think this proposition is too strong. I think the tension is ongoing because one is trying to master the clamour that is one's being or existence.  But one can lay fallow, and not even know.

Marcuse suggests that the Quantitative merely adopt new ends, much like the position of the syndicalist which is not very far off from the marxist. But is this the Qualitative? Importantly for Marcuse, the individual ought to socialize technology so that it would meet basic needs. Here one is affirming the appropriation of technology so that it would set up the conditions for personalized (tame) insurrection. (Eros and Civilization) Here one is permitted to go on to explore what Epicurus would term natural non-necessities. In all, some life ends are automated, or would be, if technology were appropriated for the same individual end through an equivalency about every output of surplus production; and with this logic or calculation in place (gestell), the individual is permitted to follow or create other life ends that suit their own willed purpose.

Here there is a dash in play; gestell has become a real filter for being, so that one might follow unbridled desire--even if only for a time until one grows out (this being the word of Marcuse's Freud). But how do we construct this life? What is being lost?
This is the question that Epicurus poses about the unnecessary.

2. It is not clear whether Bonnano would be satisfied with the above definition of the Qualitative (The Anarchist tension); therefore, if Marcuse and Heidegger are right, they wouldn't necessarily be in disagreement with Bonanno.

It is not my question whether Heidegger can be rescued from this admittedly hard reading of Marcuse; it is only my desire to open up the question that the Qualitative poses. For Bonanno, the Qualitative is certainly (also) individual resistance. But this may not be the one found in Marcuse, which is a structuring of the possibility for individual insurrection, and so a reliance on the quantitative.
There is a tension then here too. And we can read Heidegger about it.

3. In order to have the possibility of insurrection, one has to produce the conditions.
Marcuse has produced his anarcho-syndicalist version. Heidegger has suggested that calculative thinking operates as  a negative form of life. We might say that these are necessary in the production of art. Why? Because they are negative in that that contain that which one is not so that one might become. Perhaps now one can see why Marcuse and Heidegger go together. For Marcuse is here a coming as well; but its bringing forth is of a kind that depends on the quantitative, in an even more deep way. Hence we have a tension about the construction of desire. But from whence does it come?

To say that this tension is (already) the Qualitative fails to address the adjacent challenge. In this case, as in all, it would be to idle like the passive nihilist. Hence we have Zerzan's active nihilist as a difference that makes a difference (Nihilist Dictionary). We can also refer to this as bad faith, Sartre's term, as in the false presumption that one is already thus.

4. To be Qualitative is to not know whether one is so, because such is already a presumption and a construction.

This is the tension. The Qualitative only makes sense against the Quantitative; Heidegger's gestell is inescapable. So how does it all look? Heidegger is not repugnant in terms of coherence with Marcuse; but we cannot say that Marcuse's vision follows from Heidegger. Heidegger seems to challenge us to make art, but doesn't say that the automation of basic necessity is practically possible. He only says that uniqueness is possible only if one brackets that which one is not.

To automate desire is to admit that the aesthetic state is to be made possible by the dominance of reason in a certain orbit of desires. It is not the free dancing soul, the playful spirit. So the question is upon what does one depend? Or, in other words, how much Quantitative is necessary to make the Qualitative possible?

This seems to me to be well rounded in The Coming Community. Agamben's 'whatever being' seems to suggest that what is potential is a starting from where one is; that all will be only slightly altered; as if everything (Quantitative) were already thus, but only require a specific addition. But it seems that being must be repaired. Indeed, whatever being is already a repairing; a repairing of the empty desire for natural non-necessities; a coming into one's own that one may never know.


I am reminded that we always ought to destroy that which destroys us; to kill our false desires before a thickening ontological crust kills our ability to create our own desires. Is it necessary that we calculate our ways of being, that we make plans; or is the aesthetic state also possibly a trajectory of meaning towards a life outside of the realm of automation?