Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Assertion and Injunction

"It is the essential business of language to assert and deny facts," said Bertrand Russell in his introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus. He should have said "the essential business of scientific language," of course, because it is the no less essential business of political language to enjoin and denounce acts.

Philosophy elucidates the logic of assertion. Poetry aggravates the pathos of injunction.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Poetry and Politics

In my last post I said that the body's capacity for pleasure sets the limit to our industry. Exploitation always involves the use of a body beyond (or indifferent to) its own pleasure. It seems to me tonight that this is a fundamentally "poetic" style of political thinking. As opposed to a "scientific" style of thinking of about politics, or even a plainly "political" one.

Ezra Pound said that "the arts provide the data of ethics". And ethics is all about the pursuit of happiness (as Aristotle understood). We must commit our politics wholly to this pursuit. And that means that we must produce a poetry (not just a poetics) that insists on the body's capacity for pleasure. Notice I did not say its "right" to pleasure, which is a self-referentially political notion. Nor did I worry too much about the neuronal equipmentality of the thing. We need to present (make present) the givenness (datum) of life in order that our policies are unable to ignore them.

We don't yet know what the body can do, said Spinoza. But, truthfully, we know that it can do much more than the law allows. Which shows not that our bodies are decadent but that our laws are petty. And that is a straightforwardly political problematic.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Heart's Content

In a particular mood you can get me to believe that environmentalism is just an expression of late-capitalist ideology, an elite conspiracy, the apotheosis of scarcity. I know there are real issues, but efficiency, scale, etc. are, properly speaking, real issues too. They don't justify the amorality of the factory.

To construct an environmental limit on human industry strikes me as a decidedly third-rate solution. The limit on industry should always have been the human body's capacity for pleasure. When the worker is no longer enjoying his labour, the limit has been reached. When the body is not made healthier by the work it does, it should step away from the machine. The excesses of capitalism, including the destruction of the environment, is owed to forced labour and forced consumption beyond the natural desires of the bodies that work and consume.

Everyone should be allowed to work and to consume to their heart's content, and no one should be forced to work or to consume any more than that. Industry violates the heart's desire for work. Advertising violates the heart's desire to consume. It is not the planet that cries out against this violence; it is our own tortured flesh. Listen to your heart, man.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flesh, Image, and Representation

"It is more than the simple athleticism of the mens sana in corpore sano. The conception of the body as perfect instrument of the increasing intelligence pervades." (Ezra Pound)

Our spiritual lives begin in the body. Anyone who has ever learned how to do anything with their hands (to draw, or play the piano, for example) or even someone who has simply spent some time "getting into shape" (swimming, for example, or running) knows that it is not merely a bodily change. The body changes, but so does the way we think and feel. I want to say that physical exercise (or training in any art) transforms the musculature and the imagination. We experience a change in both our volition and our intelligence, which is experienced as a transformation of experience itself.

Mastery of any set of stylized movements, whether those required to play a fugue on a piano or those required to run 10 kilometers at a steady pace over hilly terrain, requires the formation of the appropriate muscles and their coordination in activity (what scientists probably talk about as the formation of "neuronal pathways"). It is a shaping of the flesh. This reshaping of the fleshy basis of experience (what Kant called "the conditions of the possibility of the experience of objects") is what transforms our imagination. The new flesh yields up new images in the confrontation of sensory stimulus and motor impulse.

The images occasion thoughts and feelings and, from these, belief and desire. These latter, "propositional", states have content, which is "represented" in science and politics. The presence that is here re-presented, however, is the body.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Five Motives?

In my last post I made a remark that appears enigmatic even to me. "I suppose there may be exactly five motives (just as there are exactly five senses) but we have not, I think, enumerated them yet." Is there really anything in the realm of motive that resembles the division of the senses into sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell?

If a "sense" is a channel or mode of perception the we can think of "motive" as a channel or mode of action. Now, just as we have hearing we have voice. Voice might be a "motor modality" just as hearing is a "sense modality". So far so good. We also have modalities like moving (i.e., changing our position in space), as well as pushing and holding. We might add pulling, but that seems to be a combination of holding and pulling—back. That seems to do it. But that's only four motives.

Is it silly to look for a fifth? Well most sense experience involves a combination of senses. You can't "perceive" a dance, for example, except by seeing and hearing it. And taste, as everyone knows, is actually a combination of tasting (actually using your taste buds) and smelling. So let's think about this motive of "voice". Let's divide it into the intention to speak and the intention to sing. We now have five: speech, song, impulse (pushing/pulling), grasp (holding), and locomotion (moving around).

Telekinesis, of course, is simply extra-motory action. A sixth motive.