jueves, 27 de junio de 2013

Two Articles and Potential Buh-Bye

    I'm thinking of migrating away from blogspot quite soon, since the comments section has apparently been taken over by Nick Land's A.I space, and the whole thing just sucks basically. I'm not sure whether I find blogging nearly as stimulating as I did before though, since most 'live proto-philosophizing' seems to happen through facebook now. Guess we're back to where we started, with the dialog-form. That said, I'm not sure I will even decide to open up a new blog; although I might just to have a medium to vent off any provisional thoughts. This might actually be the last post I write here.

On a happier note, two articles of mine were published this month. The former, titled 'Realism and Representation', appears in the excellent new issue of
Speculations and develops an outline for my basic take on speculative realism and the 'ontological turn', outlining a Sellarsian defense of representation. The second came out in the International Journal of Badiou Studies, and is a somewhat lengthy piece discussing Badiou's attempts to reinvigorate the dialectic by proposing a rationalist materialism, advancing what I take to be a pretty strong critique of his view. Both essays will probably end up in some form in the monograph piece I am preparing. That beast is clocking at around 105k words now, and still has some bit to go. Hope it finds a way out. With that said, here go the links:

IJBS - Towards a Rationalist Materialism: Plato, Hegel, Badiou

Thanks to those few, scattered souls that gave this dumpster a read every now and then. 

lunes, 13 de mayo de 2013

The Rise of the Anti-Realist Novel: On Defoe, Sellars, Foucault and Ishiguro



    The following is a modest attempt to engage critically with the historical narrative about the rise of the novel proposed by Ian Watt in his influential study The Rise of the Novel, and in which he draws a complicity between what he designates as the philosophical realism of the early modern period, and the emergence of the novel form. My contention is that Watt's reading betrays a correct understanding of the philosophical climate and ideas which nevertheless must be correctly understood as inspiring the emergence of new literary forms, and specifically the novel. That said, I diagnose in the individualist turn proposed in the early novel a complicity with what can more correctly be diagnosed as the anti-realist tendencies that followed from incipient skeptical doubts raised in early modern philosophy.

I - Parallel Shipwrecks: On Desert Landscapes 

        The American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars was fond of speaking about the empiricist philosophies of the early modern period by using the expression "Robinson Crusoe theories of knowledge", referring to their primitive epistemological explorations. For him, the deserted islands of Defoe's Crusoe provided a handy metaphor to conjure what in his mind were the isolated provinces of individualist thought. These philosophers, he argued, "... did not really think out the problematic of intersubjectivity", but remained confined to the narrow and austere expanses of an individual exploration, or quest for self-knowledge[1]. Besides the apparent light-heartedness of the comparison proposed here, of course, Defoe's genre-inaugurating work details the ruminations of the one who survives a shipwreck, void of provisions, and threatened by the hostile forces of nature. The imperative implied in the incipient modern beginning is at once epistemological and practical; it informs both the awakening of the individual's critical powers before the present, and accordingly assigns to individual thought the singular destiny of emancipatory production. Through Crusoe's autistic triumph, Dafoe tethers truth to the impersonal deployment of the individual's rational powers, so that "“He that hath truth on his side is a fool as well as a coward if he is afraid to own it because fo other mens's opinions.[2]” 

The novel's rupture with literary traditionalism, in this inaugural gesture, is thereby aligned to the image of the single individual, castaway, destined to survive alone in his exploratory ventures, against the opprobrium of a time and place foreign to its example. Yet, behind what appears as an otherwise playful locution, Sellars is ultimately leveling a critique on such early modern views, precisely insofar as in privileging the subject or individual they thereby become insensitive to the social, intersubjective dimension of knowledge. Insensitive to intersubjectivity, "The Robinson Crusoe conception of the world as generating conceptual thinking directly on the mind is too simple a mode. The perennial tradition long limited itself to accounting for the presence in the individual of the framework of conceptual thinking in terms of a unique kind of action of reality as intelligible on the individual mind.[3]

Continuing the thrust of Sellars' metaphor, we would be tempted to ask what shipwreck, indeed which unsuspecting vessel, had to be sunk in order for thought to meet the deserted islands of epistemological reflection. That under the name of traditional metaphysics, perhaps? The realist naivety that mind could simply apprehend the vast domains of the Real without a propadeutic enquiry into its own facultative powers? However laudable their enterprise, and however playful in tone Sellars' insinuation is, one cannot but wonder whether the individualist thought that marks the advent of these philosophical forms finds not only the triumphant and parallel shipwrecks of traditionalist forms in philosophy and literature, but also a castaway's desolate arrival in the shores of a myopic, indeed claustrophobic individualist terrain. 

We are obliged to ask, it seems, about what the novel's epochal rupture with the literary forms of its time consisted in, more precisely, in its complicity with individualism. In this regard, Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel teases out that "The novel is the form of literature which most fully reflects this individualist and innovating reorientation. Previous literary forms had reflected the general tendency of their cultures to make conformity to traditional practice the major test of truth: the plots of a classical and renaissance epic, for example, were based on past history or fable, and the merits of the author's treatment were judged largely according to a view of literary decorum derived from the accepted models in the genre. This literary traditionalism was first and most fully challenged by the novel, whose primary criterion was truth to individual experience - individual experience which is always unique and therefore new. The novel is thus the logical literary vehicle of a culture which, in the last few centuries, has set an unprecedented value on originality, on the novel; and it is therefore well named.[4]" And, indeed, the truth which Dafoe announces becomes often quite a solitary matter, in the side of individual creation, rather than a continuation or a repetition in the side of tradition. 

Watt notes in the incipient novel-form proper to Dafoe and Richardson thus an interruption of the dependence of narrative fiction on mythological, religious and popular wisdom, a dependence however that ubiquitously enveloped literary production until then, and that would not be definitively interrupted, he claims, until the 19th century[5][6]. He writes in this regard that "Defoe and Richardson are the first great writers in our literature who did not take their plots from mythology, history, legend or previous literature. In this they differ from Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton, for instance, who, like the writers of Greece and Rome, habitually used traditional plots; and who did so, in the last analysis, because they accepted the general premise of their times that, since Nature is essentially complete and unchanging, its records, whether scriptural, legendary or historical, constitute a definitive repertoire of human experience." (13-14) Against the stasis of the traditionalist world and the narrative redundancy of its literary forms, Watt aligns the novel with the modern spirit and its avowal of originality, creativity, and individual defiance, not at all unlike the critical force behind the modern secularist thought probed by the philosophers, which challenged the theological discourse of the preceding Scholastic metaphysics, and questioned through unprecedented methodological scrutiny the lineage of the tradition, from antiquity to its present. Yet Watt does not hesitate to align the historical vector leading from the novel to literary vanguardism to what he calls the realist tendencies of empiricist philosophies[7]. Those philosophers which, Sellars tells us, rummage in the solitude of self, in what appears to his eyes to be something of an autistic slumber. 

At this juncture, Watt's proposal to align the emergence of the novel form with the progressive spirit set by modern philosophers through the common aspiration towards realism seems suddenly at odds with the timid insinuations bestowed to us by the philosopher himself. For hasn't Sellars' metaphor pointed to what is, in fact, short of a great emancipatory gesture for thinking, in fact a colossal shipwreck, a destitution of thought from its populous ports, failing as it is to account for the intersubjective and the impersonal? A thought finally incapable of breaching the solipsistic court of self and stray farther out to the 'great outdoors' coveted by any philosophy worthy of the name? One might be tempted, thereby, to critically assess Watt's appropriation of the term 'realism' to describe the advent of the novel form by drawing close analogy to the modern philosophical context, calling attention to the common pursuit for an anti-traditionalist individualism that, in some sense, remains confined to deserted islands. But more than a potential historical corrective to Watt's reading, a reconsideration of the impetus behind realism and individualism, if indeed a wedge can be driven between the literary and the philosophical through these slippery terms, can also serve to diagnose the expiration of the emancipatory potential incumbent in the primitive modern exemplars. 

Once the complicity between realism and individualism is shown to be suspect, the secularist thrust motivating the inflection to self in the early novel and epistemology is shown to come at the price of implicating its secularism in tandem to philosophical idealism, or else, to use Quentin Meillassoux's useful term, to pave the way idealism by way of a correlationism, i.e. the view that thought can at best aspire to think that which is relative to itself[8]. Or, to speak like Sellars, we are soon led to the austere result that thought cannot but explore its own deserted islands. And so the novel seems to find in individualism the only response to the traditionalist narrative, much like modern epistemology sequesters thought away from the naive realism of the ancient metaphysicians only to find itself entrapped within the subject's own narrow expanses. 

II - Realism, Individualism, Correlationism: The Rise of the Anti-Realist Novel 

In order to set up our dispute, it will be helpful to narrow down precisely in what sense Watt seeks to read the rise of the novel as marked by the realist orientation in philosophy. This is necessary, since Watt clearly distinguishes a different sense in which the term "realism" acquires force within the context of 19th century artistic production, namely that of the French school, in which the term was used term in a properly aesthetic key: "The main critical associations of the term 'realism' are with the French school of Realists. 'Réalisme' was apparently first used as an aesthetic description in 1835 to denote the 'vérité humaine' of Rembrandt as opposed to the 'idéalité poétique' of neo-classical painting; it was later consecrated as a specifically literary term by the foundation in 1856 of Réalisme a journal edited by Duranty.[9]" Watt draws no explicit historical connection between this sense of the term realism and the sense he borrows from the philosophical schools; yet his suggestion is clearly that there is more than a trite semantic resonance linking the two, a deeper affinity, where crucially individualism comes to bear. 

Provisionally, let us recall that the classical philosophical dispute between realists and anti-realists found its locus classicus in debates surrounding the thesis of the existence of the external world. The history of this dispute is itself long and contrived, and I do not intend to revisit it here. Instead, I specify the most general determinations that are relevant to comprehending how Watt understands the philosophical ideas that animate the origins of the novel, and the spirit of the times in which such an invention occurred. I use the expression metaphysical realism to refer, in short, to any position according to which there exists a world independently of thought. Accordingly, I call metaphysical anti-realist or idealist any position according to which there is no world independently of the mind, i.e. the view according to which mind and world are identical. What is most salient about these positions is that they are formulated in ontological terms, i.e. they concern the question about what is Real and the attempts to answer it. 

Within the context of the modern period, a further complication of this original division would come by the introduction of the epistemological problematic, which is also the point at which the individual qua knower becomes both methodologically and substantively central to philosophical reflection[10]. As it turns out, it is this aspect that will become most salient when connecting Dafoe's deserted islands to the modern philosophy of mind. I will thus call epistemological realism any position according to which it is possible to know of the world independent of our minds. Accordingly, I will call epistemological anti-realist or correlationist any position that denies that such knowledge is so possible[11]. What is most salient about these last two positions is, in contrast to metaphysical realism and idealism, that they are formulated in epistemological terms, i.e. they concern the question about how we know what is Real, where the bearer of this knowledge is, of course, the cogito, the thinking subject or individual[12]

Framed within the scope of these terms, Watt explicitly identifies the philosophical sense of realism that bears on the rise of the novel as that pertaining to the epistemological realism of the early moderns, in terms which are surprisingly cogent with our own proposed terminology. Yet he claims that, far from proposing a direct engagement with the philosophical issues implied by these positions, the novel merely took up the "spirit" of their problems: 

"But the view that the external world is real, and that our senses give us a true report of it, obviously does not in itself throw much light on literary realism; since almost everyone, in all ages, has in one way or another been forced to some such conclusion about the external world by his own experience, literature has always been to some extent exposed to the same epistemological naïveté. Further, the distinctive tenets of realist epistemology, and the controversies associated with them, are for the most part much too specialized in nature to have much bearing on literature. What is important to the novel in philosophical realism is much less specific; it is rather the general temper of realist thought, the methods of investigation it has used, and the kinds of problems it has raised.[13]

The passage above is tantalizing, but ultimately unperspicuous. What are these general "problems" which according to Watt define the early modern spirit? And what was, finally the spirit raised, if not that informed by the very philosophical theses and questions that Watt just stated it would be folly to assume were taken up by the early novelists? What are these 'kinds' if not the set of epistemological directives that, according to Sellars, sent our ships into atrophying rocks? At this juncture, somewhat predictably, the question of individualism enters into the picture. For the 'general temper' in question will concern first and foremost the upsetting of the traditionalist avowal of Universals in favor of what Watt calls "the particulars of experience." 

"The general temper of philosophical realism has been critical, anti-traditional and innovating; its method has been the study of the particulars of experience by the individual investigator, who, ideally at least, is free from the body of past assumptions and traditional beliefs; and it has given a peculiar importance to semantics, to the problem of the nature of the correspondence between words and reality. All of these features of philosophical realism have analogies to distinctive features of the novel form, analogies which draw attention to the characteristic kind of correspondence between life and literature which has obtained in prose fiction since the novels of Defoe and Richardson.[14]

But of course, the particulars of experience alluded to by Watt amount to nothing else but the experience of particulars, that is, the account of the life proper to singular individuals. Accordingly, Watt celebrates the greatness of the Cartesian method as having done away with mankind's blind trust in dogmatically prescribed forms and beliefs, a skepticism which the novel takes up in focusing on the primacy of an "...individual experience which is unique and therefore new.[15]" Defoe's adoption of the first person auto-biographical form is then exemplarily seen as a timely analogue to the thematization of the Cartesian cogito, while Locke's call for the preponderance of experience through the givenness of sensibility seems adequate to a new narrative seeking to explore the experiential indoors of the individual. Finally, "The parallel here between the tradition of realist thought and the formal innovations of the early novelists is obvious: both philosophers and novelists paid greater attention to the particular individual than had been common before.[16]

For Watt, the alignment of realism and individualism, in philosophy and the novel, consists therefore in the secularist vector that it initiates for thought. The disruption of tradition, the avowal of critical distance with respect to textual forms, the raising of strong methodological questions (the epistemological, the meta-narrative...), the prime on experience… all become symptoms of a burgeoning incredulity slowly wearing away at the rocks of tradition. All of these gestures are ultimately aligned to a realism that tacitly affirms the creative potency of the subject, over and against the prescriptions of its time and culture. Watt summarizes: "The novel is thus the logical literary vehicle of a culture which, in the last few centuries, has set an unprecedented value on originality, on the novel; and it is therefore well named.[17]

But what about the properly philosophical question about the external world? Was this, as might be expected, too specific a demand or theme to concern the novelists, as Watt suggests? And even if this is so, might this exclusion or obviation in the appropriation of the term realism to describe the advent of the novel nevertheless not veil what perhaps sided the individualist turn of the modern period more specifically to forms of epistemological and metaphysical anti-realism, in the sense we outlined above? For it is clear that Watt's alignment of the early modern philosophers with the banner of epistemological realism is only adequate insofar as one considers the latter as part of the secularizing break that individualism implied with respect to traditional narrative forms. Nevertheless, as Quentin Meillassoux points out, what the modern philosophers enacted through the turn to the individual, was quite the opposite of a triumphant epistemological realism, a secure knowledge conquered by the methodological awakening of epistemology and later the critical method. Indeed, although Descartes' rationalism attempts to rescue thought from the moment of radical doubt and thereby defy the solitude of the cogito back onto the physical world and the Divine, the empiricist who plays so central a role (according to Watt) could not be said to uphold an epistemological realism, in the strict sense. Indeed, suffocated by skeptical uncertainties, this tradition initiates the epistemological anti-realism or correlationist vector towards idealism that finds its radicalization in Berkeley's subjectivation of primary properties (those thought by the rationalist to give knowledge of the external world), and reaches its apex in the great German Idealist tradition, from Kant to Hegel, and beyond[18]

Is it not also then cause for suspicion that the bulwark of the 18th and 19th century Idealist tradition plays no comparable role to that of the mistakenly dubbed epistemological realisms of the early rationalists and empiricists in setting up the stage and development for the early novel, according to Watt's genealogy? Yet, as we have been insinuating, the empiricist precursors to overt idealism had already portended a general skepticism against the possibility of reaching beyond our perception of the immediate present, as disclosed to experience. The loss of justification when securing the causal necessity said to obtain between events in the world rendered the postulate of natural law as precarious as the immediate existence of the outside world. Or, as Meillassoux condenses brilliantly apropos Hume and the problem of induction, the question raised by the empiricists was: “Can one establish that in identical circumstances, future successions of phenomena will always be identical to previous successions?” (Meillassoux: 2008, Pg. 85) Where knowledge about the natural world and its lawfulness started to seem ever more precarious, only the new order of individual, subjective law, could fill in the gap. 

If the "general temper" that aligned philosophy and the novel was therefore to latch onto its individualism, then must we not accept the novel also inserted itself, perhaps unreflectively, into the history that leads from the correlationist skepticism about the viability of realism to the idealist's ultimately identification of mind and world? For, as we surmised above, the modern secularist break found in the critical interstices of our particular experience and our subjectivity the only domain to find shelter from the said ubiquity of tradition and dogma that passed in the name of universal law. As I read it, Sellars recommendation can be interpreted as waging critique against critique itself, refusing the individualism of correlationism or idealism, however implicitly assumed, as the only possible answers to traditionalist narrative forms. Is there no destiny for a progressive literary production, finally, other than to emancipate itself from all universalism in the name of an anthropocentric odyssey, making of the literary nothing but a confessionary box for the human? Or, put differently, what would a literature adequate to the thrust of a genuine philosophical realism be like? A realism, that is, that does not sacrifice thought to deserted islands to safeguard itself against traditionalism, but that might open us into the inhospitable outdoors under the imperative that, in the words of Ray Brassier, "thinking has interests that do not coincide with those of the living.[19]" How to appropriate for the novel a contemporary sense of realism which would not stop at the secularizing amputation of traditionalist forms, but would push this secularizing vector further, setting itself against the anti-realist philosophical arena in relation to which it began, unsuspectingly to Watt? 

To conclude I try to narrow down this predicament to tease out a possible new direction for the realist novel to be understood. To awaken and ask, in the spirit of Foucault's appropriation of the Kantian call for an Enlightenment in the present day "Quelle est mon actualité?[20]" I believe this question might, once qualified to the domain of narrative production, be more perspicuously stated as: what is (or would be) a contemporary literary form? What is the truth of literature, if indeed it can be said to be concerned with truth at all, and if this truth is to be perhaps no longer plausibly tethered to narcissism of the individual thinker, but must rise, like Sellars says, to the intersubjective, and the social. How to advance such a vision without vitiating our realist impetus in the name of a social constructivism, instrumentalist pragmatism, and the threats that idealization presents at every corner? 

III - Towards a Contemporary Realist Literary Form 

Further strands in the history of individualism can be traced through Michel Foucault's symptomatic diagnosis, dating back to the Hellenistic period, and extending as far as today. Far from being a nested modern phenomenon, Foucault highlights how individualism's ancient lineage relays through a 'family resemblance' three central and yet relatively autonomous (though often interconnected) ideas: the individualistic attitude, the avowal of private life, and the intensification of self-relations[21]. From these at least the last two seem continuous with the phenomena Watt diagnoses apropos the modern period, while Foucault focuses on the disciplines of the third strand which concerned the emergent normative practices within the so-called "cultivation of the self", understood as the process whereby "...the art of existence- the techne tou biou in its different forms- is dominated by the principle that says one must "take care of oneself""[22]. Foucault explicitly aligns this 'existential art' to modernity by way of adapting Kant's Enlightenment-call for a separation from the present, by way of the critical operation of the subject's rational faculties against dogma, constituting what he call the "art of the living"[23]

But whereas for Kant the call for an Enlightened care-of-self was transferred to the political domain by way of a "public use of reason", where the individual's critical capacity and the intersubjective domain coveted by Sellars would coalesce, Foucault proposes instead to move away from any such subjectivist epistemology into the hermeneutically attuned "historical ontology of ourselves.[24]" For Kant, the practical, social and by extension political range of epistemological reflection can only be attained by critique insofar as the individual "finally learns to walk alone", perhaps in Dafoe's deserted islands, once pure reason is distilled in its empty form. For Foucault, as for Sellars, one begins rather in the populated ports of the socio-historical domain, while individuality is indeed not the condition but the result of emancipation and production, i.e. the subject is not the substantial 'given' that orchestrates revolution, but the material embodiment of a new socio-historical reality. Indeed, the disenchanting, securalizing force assigned to philosophy consists, if anything, in continuing "... to emphasize the extent to which a type of philosophical interrogation- one that simultaneously problematizes man's relation to the present, man's historical mode of being, and the constitution of the self as an autonomous subject- is rooted in the Enlightenment... not a faithfulness to doctrinal elements, but rather the permanent reactivation of an attitude- that is, of a philosophical ethos that could be described as a permanent critique of our historical era.[25]" The specificity of a 'technics of self' that would be adequate to confront the biopolitical assimilation of individualist thought, must in this sense be adequate to a post-subjectivist or post-individualist attitude; critical thought is no longer anchored on the traditional (modern) vessels of the Cartesian cogito, or even in the undoubtedly more complex cruise of the Kantian transcendental subject. It must be, in Foucault's words, adequate to think of such a historical ontology of ourselves (rather than 'fundamental' ontology in Heidegger's sense, or critical-transcendental epistemology, in Kant's sense). 

In the face of this diagnosis, the potency of the modern individualism avowed by the philosophers and early novelists would, in their critical solitude, remain amputated from the socio-political progressiveness avowed by the call for Enlightenment, the latter being only reflexively accessible via a futile exercise of hermeneutic acumen. Indeed, Foucault preemptively announces, like Heidegger before him, a furious critique of the modern attitude by virtue of which individualism, like epistemology and subjectivism, remains too metaphysically encumbered, too laden and latent with unquestioned dogmas, so as to perform the liberating function Kant and his predecessors expected from it. Only the contemporary liberation from the subject promises to be truly modern, to contest to the modern Ptolemaic counter-revolutionary individualist turn, and nod towards man's destitution from the centrality of experience. I would suggest furthermore that an additional step is necessary, whereby we distance ourselves from Foucault's residual anthropocentrism, captured in his overt ontologizing of human history. In my estimation, to denounce subjectivism by ontologizing the social is to trade one form of idealism for another, one for which once again being must be rendered correlative to thought, not only epistemically, but metaphysically. We may thus risk a first imperative for a coming realist literature: it must simultaneously capture the social dimension of knowing that is constitutively social, as Foucault insists, while not reifying this dimension ontologically. It must insist on the separation between thought and the world. This is precisely the alternative that is explored by Sellars' own philosophical project, which seeks to reconcile a social conception of knowledge as a practice, with a naturalist ontology. Yet the decisive first task, in what concerns the fictional narrative, must be to question the ubiquity of individualist doxa, which confusedly continues to elide both the social dimension knowing, and a reality whose interest for thought, as Brassier puts it, "...do not coincide with those of the living."

   We can ask with Foucault: what happens when the very call for individual creativity, originality, and the ostracizing of tradition become the very instituted forms of tradition, or the very vehicles for repetition, like the subject was for philosophy in Sellars' and Heidegger's eyes? What to do when the novel form is delivered to the disempowering force of an all-too ubiquitous call for self-creation, as prescribed as it is disempowering, and where the individual, having exhausted its emancipatory potential, creates no further a stir than a parrot wilting as it aimlessly recites inherited phrases, flapping hopelessly in a cage? When we are struck by the 'literary mediocrity' that reeks "…particularly today; the belief that to make a novel, for instance, it suffices to have a personal matter at hand." and waging instead that "…writing is not the private matter of each one of us. It is to set oneself in a universal matter. Whether in the novel or in philosophy.[26]" The difficulty consists in determining how to set oneself in such 'universal matters' without reinstituting the traditionalism of the pre-modern form, nor coming up short in the merely subjectivist attempt to transcend it with Kant and the moderns. Is it through the "hermeneutic ontology of ourselves" predicated by Foucault's tentative foretelling? The radicalized realism in the form of a "constructive deconstruction" proposed by Zadie Smith, which rummages in the cynical acceptance of our slumber amidst "inauthentic" expressions, only captured (but never escaped) through meta-narrative awareness? A fetishized attempt, that is, to avoid the tradition and the perils of cliché; to seek a moderate authenticity gauged in the negotiation of spectral "inauthenticities", and in spite of the deconstructionist precautions against the nostalgia for lost origins behind those who reify any sense of the 'authentic'[27]?

    In my estimation, Heideggerean-inspired patheticism does not seem too consoling. Indeed, can any constructive, positive alternative be found in a perspective that sees in an exacerbation of critique to the proto-nihilist conclusion "…that the world is what it is, and, moreover, that all our relations with it are necessarily inauthentic.[28]"? One thing seems clear, as long as the critical awakening aroused by the modern venture is not met with an equally resilient potency for construction, thought is fatally destined to the reveries against the sacred, to the reification of the individual's incredulity, and to the precautionary cynicism that paralyzes any positive ambition as fatally sealed in advance. Of course, it would be folly to assume that the novel had to remain confined to the interests which defined its authors at its time of inception. Still, it must be possible to ask what would be a novel-form adequate to such an imperative be, if indeed, the novel remains the adequate form for such a contemporary Enlightenment? 

As a possible prolegomena to a contemporary literature, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go provides a fitting statement of the unspoken distress provoked by our contemporary predicament, facing the limitations of the potency that individuality and subjective creation once harbored. Set in a dystopian post-WWII setting, Ishiguro narrates a society where generations of clones, seemingly indiscernible in their human features from their 'original' models, are sacrificed to become organ donors for the rest of the population. In the meantime, the isolated clone population is prepared for martyrdom in various 'educational institutes', where eventually they become caretakers or 'carers' for those clones who have already begun donating, around the age of thirty. Narrated through the memoirs of young protagonist Kathy, already aged thirty one, the story tells the destined short lives of three young friends as they are brought up together in one of the institutes, Hailsham, until they become close to ripe for their donations to begin. Short circuiting the memoir-form at the hands of a young girl, Ishiguro's disarming exhibition of childish and juvenile drama exacerbates the fatal urgency these 'recluses' must invariably face. 

Yet Hailsham's peculiarity transpires by way of a superficial hospitability; the children are supervised to maintain good physical health, they grow to develop normal relationships, and are routinely encouraged to be creative, and artistically productive. They engage in seasonal 'exchanges' where they trade-in all sorts of self-made items for donated paraphernalia, and their best artistic work is taken up to be exhibited at "the Gallery", an unseen and mysterious exhibition of almost mythical status, presumably held to display the children's best artistic work. Ignoring their invariable fate, nevertheless, Kathy's narrative voice expresses the sense of urgency imposed by the institutional demand for subjective creation, drawing analogy to her social anxiety in the face of sexual awakening, as she proclaims "sex had got like “being creative” had been a few years earlier. It felt like if you hadn’t done it yet, you ought to, and quickly.[29]" Short of being depicted as a reservoir for potential transgression, the call for artistic creation is represented from the start of the novel as somehow sedating and prescribed; however enthusiastically assumed, it amounts ultimately to nothing else than an additional routine which plays right into the predetermined fate that awaits them, rather than opening the gulf to shatter it. 

As it turns out, we learn that the much vaunted "Gallery" really pertained to a futile attempt by the educators at Hailsham to prove to the invisibly distant civilian population outside the institutes that the clones were humans, that they were no different than the rest of humanity, exhibiting their artistic works as evidence for the authenticity of their subjective depth. Confronted by their nearing end in hopes of a mere 'deferral' for their donations, Kathy and her friend Tommy unearth the disarming truth from their former teacher, Miss Emily, who candidly confesses: "You said it was because your art would reveal what you were like. What you were like inside. That’s what you said, wasn’t it? Well, you weren’t far wrong about that. We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.[30]” 

Stripped helpless before the steady track towards his death, Tommy breaks down in an outburst of rage, just like the ones he experienced since he was a child as a reaction to being powerlessly bullied. The novel presents no fitting consolation for the reader; indeed, it refuses to reify the clones' evident humanity into a latent source for revolutionary political power, or their artistic creation as a potentially transformative engagement to be channelized through creativity and defiance. Instead, the characters for the most part seem to accept their fate, against the background of a largely anonymous State-power which has reduced them to sacrificial vessels for a population that is likewise invisible. In an epiphanic moment towards the book's conclusion, the three characters, reunited after separation, decide to visit a fabled beach where an old boat famously lies shipwrecked, deserted on the shore. Seemingly unsupervised, the characters' dialog does not offer any subsiding fantasies about escape, salvation, but merely negotiate over their proximate demise. Kathy proclaims, fatalistically: "“We’ve seen the boat,” I said, “but now we’ve got to get back.[31]" Ishiguro's virtue resides precisely in avoiding any palliatives to the discomforting powerlessness that blankets over once the kernel of rebellious potency and individual creativity have been assimilated to the biopolitical machinery. A State, that is, no longer confined by borders or forced to tame the unruly tendencies, since even the vital élan has become cynically decomposed, nothing but the host for pathetic exhibitionism. The critical purchase of thought achieved by rendering explicit the trodden capacity of subjectivity before power is ridiculed and reduced to nothing but an implicit surrender; the invisibility of the novel's dampening world only matched by the deafness of its unobtrusive silence; the moral indifference of the perpetrators only matched by the incapacity to even think of another world. The shipwreck no longer signals a triumphant survival or arrival, it underlines the indifference of a world, as Brassier describes, truly indifferent to the interests of the living. 

At the deepest level, the novel refuses even to fetishize hope in the form of ignorance: rather than having the donor-carer system be a secretive operation of the State at the margins of an unsuspecting population, it is unabashedly public and accepted. Even before the resounding evidence of their artistic works, it is tacitly conveyed that both the political powers and population remain undisturbed in unison. The end of the book pushes the predicament faced by the characters to its limit, as it deflates the last thread of hope when, in a morbidly pathetic climax, Kathy risks insinuating to Tommy that his regular raging outbursts must have entailed that he had at least knowledge of what lied ahead of them, to which he sternly responds: "Don't think so Kath. No, it was always just me. Me just being an idiot.[32]" The timid laughter that accompanies Tommy's sobering yet somber comment snatches any remnant of hope in the reader to find some final comfort, a reservoir of meaning or in the character's intuition, thought or memory, trivializing the power of thought to its extreme: 'They might die, but at least one of them knew!', this is precisely the consolation that never arrives, and lends the book its discomforting radicality. The book's concluding line depicts the tragic junction of resolve and hopelessness, as Kathy yields confessing: "... I wasn't sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned out of the car, to drive off to wherever I was supposed to be.[33]

It is to Ishiguro's tremendous credit to avoid the pitfalls of supplanting a facile heroism of invention adequate to the modern ideal of self-creation for the provincialist apologies of the pre-modern lifestyle. However fatalist in its predicament, Ishiguro's plot does not hesitate to embrace a hyper-objectification of subjectivity, before which the apologies for the irreducibility of the human, of the subject, of life, cannot but seem exhausted philosophical shoptalk at best, and quasi-religious consolation at worst. It reckons the brutal truth that thought faces once it disowns and re-articulates itself within the objective efficacy of a worldview for which the reveries for man have been assimilated to a higher-order normative power, a nameless economy for which the individual matters less than nothing.[34]

[1] SELLARS, Wilfrid, Kant and Pre-Kantian Themes: Lectures by Wilfrid Sellars, Ridgeview Publishing, Pg. 7. 
[2] DAFOE, William, Robinson Crusoe, Pg. 45. 
[3] SELLARS, Wilfrid, Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man in Science, Perception, and Reality, Ridgeview Publishing, Pg. 16. 
[4] WATT, Ian, The Rise of the Novel, Peregrine, 1956, Pg. 13-15. 
[5] And although this interruption with traditionalist prescriptions was certainly not limited to the Anglophone context of the novel, the propriety of the latter seems to lie in its progressive refusal to borrow from historical narratives of the past to examine the present. Thus, although Cervantes' Quixote was also clearly challenging and mocking the narrative conventions of the time (the interruption of academicist and scholastic conventions; the demand of great poetry as prefacing the works, the saturation of references...), its plot was thematically tied to the traditional mythology of chivalry even if, it must be accepted, to do so with unprecedented critical and ironic distance. 
[6] Ibid. 
[7] Ibid. 
[8] The term is Quentin Meillassoux's. See his After Finitude, translated by Ray Brassier, Continuum, Pg. 9-11 
[9] Watt, Pg. 23. 
[10] For a historical account see Wilfrid Sellars, Kant and Pre-Kantian Themes. 
[11] MEILLASSOUX, QUENTIN , After Finitude, translated by Ray Brassier, Continuum, Pg. 9-11 
[12] In spite of this obvious difference in key, it should be apparent that although epistemological realism entails metaphysical realism, the observe is not the case. For to say that the external world is knowable implies that there is a world so as to be known; while one might think in turn that such a world exists or could exist but is nevertheless unknowable. This amounts to saying that epistemological anti-realism does not commit one to metaphysical anti-realism: it is perfectly possible to say one cannot know of the world even if one claims that it exists. 
[13] Watt, Pg. 34. 
[14] Ibid. Pg. 7 
[15] Ibid, Pg. 8. 
[16] Ibid. Pg 13 
[17] Ibid. 
[18] This vector eventually leads properly to the Romantic privileging of aesthetic production over rational cognition (Schiller, Nietzsche...) that would coincide more properly with the avowal of individual creation that Watt finds in complicity with the rise in novel. The philosophical background sets this stage: Kant had agreed with Hume in taking sensibility to constitute an amorphous manifold which is then formed by mental associations, but proceeds to define a transcendental structure of pure reason that gives the necessity sought by Hume in the outside world. For Kant, sensibility is passive, and although is given under the minimal forms of space and time, he agrees with Hume in that the manifold of sense lacks determinate content; perception yields nothing but a 'bundle of sensations'. This is where the categorical work of the understanding operates thus. Objectual determinacy, which defines the Natural field of causation, constrains the aesthetic by synthesizing it with the understanding (into the pure unity of apperception). Thus, in the end, for Kant, freedom is paradoxically that which emerges from within the constraint to universality, as a kind of pure adequation to reason. The amorphousness of experience did not fall prey to skeptical interference insofar as it preserved the rationalist ideation. 

What the Romantic aestheticist avowal of feeling and sensibility does is to dislodge the residual rationalism from Kant's idealist project. Practical reason is reserves a space for action for the act of pure freedom as that which is 'purposeless', that defies all natural 'law' or rational synthesis. Thus the avowal of the dictum that life is 'purposiveness without purpose' comes to disavow the categorical imperative with a kind of vital imperative. If we take this back to the incipient rise of the novel; the ideals of individual creation found its definitive expression during this time. The sensible particularity of the individual affirmed itself in exception to the universal constriction of Universal reason, delivering thought to the pure will, which can assert in the form of creation the determinations of reason, rather than submission. The amorphousness of sensibility the gulf constitutes a proper excess to the determinate constraints of reason and nature. From here it is not difficult to see how the category of the aesthetic has been reified as a political antidote to dogmatisms, and how such a view may have influenced literary production. 

[19] BRASSIER, Ray, Nihil Unbound, Pallgrave, 2007, Pg. 3. 
[20] Although we might be tempted to translate Foucault's ' actualité" with the English "present", and though it certainly asks about the timeliness of the question, I think 'actuality' preserves the philosophical contrast to 'potentiality' that is pregnant in Foucault's writing. The idea is to develop those potentials thus, to bring into the present those individuations which have hitherto remain unactualized by asking which ones define one's temporal situatedness. This tension is more palpable in his references to Kant, made explicit during his 1982-1983 lectures, where he asks "Quel est le champ actuel des experiencés possibles.", which we might thereby translate as "What is the actual terrain of possible experiences." Le Gouvernement de soi et des autres: Cours au Collège de France 1982-1983, ed. FrançoisEwald, Alessandro Fontana, and Frédéric Gros (Paris: Gallimard, 2008) 
[21] FOUCAULT, Michel, Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault, UMP, Pg. 34. 
[22] Ibid. 
[23] I do not intend to revisit the arduous history that Foucault details in his text, but rather propose to assess directly the ways in which individualism, in the abovementioned senses, become configured from the modern period onwards, before suggesting a potential haven where the contemporary novel becomes implicated within this tradition, as a way to complicate the story set by Watt. 
[24] Ibid. 44 
[25] FOUCAULT, Michel, What is Enlightenment?, pp 7. 
[26] DELEUZE, Gilles, Abecedary, H for History of Philosophy , translation by author, available in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHJna7X29bs 
 SMITH, Zadie, Two Paths for the Novel, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/nov/20/two-paths-for-the-novel/?pagination=false 
[28] Ibid. 
[29] Ishiguro, Never Let me Go, Vintage, 2006, Pg. 136. 
[30] Ibid, 201. 
[31] Ibid, 178. 
[32] Ibid, 204. 
[33] Ibid. 278.
[34] For an exemplar of how this dialectical negotiation between the manifest and scientific images of man in the world within a literary context, see Scott Bakker's stellar Neuropath, Tor Books, 2010.

jueves, 25 de abril de 2013

Funky Matters

- Jason Wakefield, Funky Bubblers, and Avello Publishing Press -

      It has been a while since I have written anything here, but I'm happy to report this has been for a good reason. I have been mostly occupied writing a monograph-piece that is now clocking at around 86k words. I will post some information on this ongoing project shortly, but I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about something else. Something real funky. A stinker in fact. 

About a year ago I was contacted by the likes of a certain fellow by the name of Jason Wakefield whom I knew nothing about. He contacted me first through facebook, and upon seeing that he was friends with many in my philosophy-circles, I accepted his friend request. Why not? Shortly after, I would find out that Mr.Wakefield ran the cross-disciplinary journal 'Avello', which in turn was the offspring of some publishing agency by that same name. Needless to say, at the time all of this was unbeknownst to me. I was surprised to see many respectable folk listed in the editorial board, however, including Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou. And the journal claimed to be affiliated with Cambridge University.  

More surprising still, Mr.Wakefield's facebook profile revealed that he was also related to a strange organization that went by the name of 'Funky Bubblers Entertainment'. And just by judging from the photos, boy, did it look entertaining alright. Boats, champagne, electronic music, and overt womanizing. Mr. Wakefield, hereby The Funky One, sure knows how to party, and unabashedly professes a love for beautiful women. He even thanks Pamela Anderson in his last monograph. But we'll get back to that.

As if all of this wasn't enough gold, I soon came to learn that The Funky One went also by the name of DJ Luga, and was responsible for some musical concoctions whose qualities I'm in no position to comment on. I will say that he got me hooked on Rihanna's Closer, for what it's worth:


Here the ordeal turns sour, however.

      After having no interactions that I can remember, I was approached by The Funky One through Facebook, July of last year (2012). He cordially invited me to participate in the upcoming issue of his journal, which was about to take off, including contributions by some of the distinguished folk I cited above. 

At the time, I thought yet again, "Why not?", and so I proceeded to send him a few candidate papers that I had amassed from my first year of grad school, and which I offered to sculpt into a publishable piece for his journal. At the time, I expressed preference for a paper on Lacan that I had been working on for some time, and which I eventually made available through the blog. Here is the email I sent The Funky One, Friday August 3rd, 2012:

From: Daniel Sacilotto
Subject: Papers

To: avellopublishing@yahoo.co.uk

Date: Friday, 3 August, 2012, 4:12

Dear Jason,
Here are some candidate papers. They are all long, and fairly technical. They are not formatted for publication yet, so do let me know if any one of these fits your expectations so I can go ahead and make the appropriate edition. 




     The attachments included four papers of mine, including the Lacan piece that I mentioned above. In short notice, The Funky One requested that I send him a bibliography for that paper, and said it would go through an editorial board peer-review process, as expected. I agreed, only to receive, barely a week later, an e-mail detailing which revisions to make. So, everything in being in order, I proceeded to work on editing the paper in question during the ensuing weeks, preparing it for publication. 

And then it happened. All of a sudden, on September 7th, I was tagged on a facebook thread made by The Funky One himself, announcing the online publication of Avello's latest issue. Slightly perplexed, I went to see if they just went ahead and published the Lacan essay without the due revision I had been working on, and in spite of rejoinders sent to me. But no. None of that, folks. Instead I saw another paper of mine listed and uploaded there, a paper which I had sent originally but not edited for him, nor authorized him to publish in the form it was. 

  I immediately contacted Wakefield to express my perplexity, to which he responded by claiming that a 'misunderstanding' had taken place. After talking a bit with Paul Ennis, and consulting with Jodi Dean over facebook, I became increasingly suspicious of The Funky One's antics. 

Still, I decided to let the whole matter slide, since I had no real problem with that paper being disseminated, even if I would have not authorized its publication had I been consulted. Instead, I simply decided to avoid further professional contact with The Funky One, and limited myself to giggling over the many-a-thousand wondrous funky bubbles that popped in his facebook wall: endless praises for Cambridge University, shameless self-publicity of all sorts for his 'work' and his journal, automated responses to every query raised to him, and lots of happy times partying.

                With all this in mind, and having more serious matters to attend to, I would have been merry just to forget about The Funky One's unethical slide. Times of peace were upon us. But when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. 

     A few months later, towards the end of the year 2012, I was startled to hear yet another issue of the journal announced and, shortly after, published. This time, alas, I was not invited to participate. Boo-hoo, right? 

Little did I know, I was invited all along; an invitation I couldn't really refuse. For I was fortunate enough to catch my name evoked by Mr.Wakefield, publicizing an essay of mine, in the wall of my friend Nick Srnicek. To add to my confusion, the title of the paper attributed to me was totally unrecognizable: "Badiou and Brassier: Conditions with Problems?"

   If things aren't superlatively clear, allow to be more blunt. The Funky One just went ahead and published another of the drafts I originally sent him, without consulting me whatsoever. Needless to say, at no point did I authorize the publication of that piece, let alone for the title to be changed to whatever he thought might serve to lure an impressionable demographic.  Nor would have I allowed for the publication to take place had I been asked at that point; not in Avello nor anywhere else for that matter. The piece in question was no longer representative of my thinking at the time, nor was it in publishable form. 

     Let me make this absolutely clear: I did not authorize the publication of that piece, nor was I consulted about it.

    So, I immediately responded to the thread where I had been tagged, instructing Jason to take the piece down, and warning him that I would press charges were he to use my work from then on without my consent. Predictably, I got another automated message from him, claiming for yet another 'misunderstanding'. To this day, the essay has not been taken down.

   But it never ends with The Funky One, sadly. He just published his first "book", under the very Avello Publishing Press he proudly proclaims himself CEO, of course. He even sells it through Amazon, and plagues everyone's walls with robotic prescriptions to buy it:

    Now, I am fairly congenial to cross-disciplinary exchanges, and actively encourage the mating of different forms of thought. I can even get behind the wild partying gig; we could sure use some funk and bubbles, and less boring soirees, methinks. There is a place for a Funky Bubbler among us, even if, alas, it seems that the funk has indeed taken him a bit too far at times:

I have no comments on The Funky One's less successful ventures. 

    But boy oh boy, it just has to be said...

It is simply incomprehensible to me that thinking of this caliber could pass for 'philosophy':
    "Hamlet is central to Deleuze's philosophical project in Difference & Repetition because of this universal question of Being.9This ontological questioning is shared by Alain Badiou in a very different way in his Being and Event.10 Badiou thinks about non-being in a more mathematical way than Deleuze. Meillassoux's use of Cantor's mathematics is a clear influence of Badiou's teaching. Indeed Badiou wrote the preface for After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Heidegger's central preoccupation with being and non-being, was to answer the question of what is is, as is is part of the verb to be, which in turn is obviously the verb of being. This is the crux of Hamlet's question 'to be, or not to be?' Two contrasting sets of metaphors structure this particular soliloquy. Being impedes and hampers life as an actively hostile mortal coil, whilst non-being through death is a consummation of this struggle through a reiterated sleep. Hamlet uses the pronouns 'we' and 'us' later in this soliloquy, alongside the utilisation of the impersonal infinitive, which opens up the question of being to us all as a universal question. For some analytical thinkers, Heidegger's answer to Hamlet, may seem like a pointless querying of an absolute presupposition, but for Badiou, perhaps being and non-being can only be re-investigated through Heidegger's ontology."
     I mean, this spiel makes Latour litanies look like a groceries list. It's as if Meillassoux's factiality suddenly obtained, producing an inexplicable amalgam of senseless blather, a seemingly unruly tirade only cogent under the hypothesis of a chaosmos. This is the philosopher's version of The Room folk.

    Anyway, to wrap up, those of you being contacted by The Funky One are thus advised not to fall to his trap. The guy is a conman; a hilarious one, to be sure, but a conman nevertheless. To this day I have not been able to exactly figure out what's his affiliation with Cambridge University, nor whether he in fact holds a philosophy doctorate, as he claims. Even less have I been able to figure out if indeed Johnston, Malabou, or any of the other professors allegedly in his editorial board are even aware of this guy's existence, let alone whether they participate in this charade. 

Now he's pervasively publicizing the forthcoming Avello Conference; and I would just encourage those of you in his periphery to avoid it like the plague. Or maybe just go and see what the Hell is going on with this guy? I'd be weary about getting the sour end of the funky bubbles and ending with some brain damage.


But, in the end, it is his philosophy that is ethically irrefutable, not the man, nor his doings. 

It's all about DJ Luga, indeed. 

martes, 11 de septiembre de 2012

Lacan, Zizek, Badiou: Why Sellars Matters in These Debates?


Why Sellars Matters In These Debates?


As a response to my last post about Zizek's claims to realism, and my latest post on the theoretical cogency of psychoanalysis, I have been receiving some critical commentary, all roughly along the same lines. Characteristically, by my friends Levi Bryant, and Javier Urbina, all defend Lacan from my criticisms. As far as I can gauge, the main criticisms are that:

a) Lacan, and by extension Zizek, are not interested in a notion of the Real like that of philosophers. Therefore that the questions about realism raised by people like Meillassoux or Brassier, concerning our access to the in-itself, are not to be conflated with Lacan's own questions.

b) Badiou, similarly, has no analogous concept of the Real as impossible, but rather of Being as inconsistent, which is radically different, and should not be identified.

Levi wrote the following:

"You treated psychoanalytic practice in terms of knowledge, presupposing a set of transcendent criteria for evaluating it, missing the entire point that the psychoanaytic clinic is a site of evental truth and a truth-procedure for the analysand that undergoes it. The psychoanalytic clinic is not after *knowledge*, nor does the analyst *have knowledge*. The psychoanalytic clinic is after that which *escapes* knowledge and language. This is what the term "subject" means in psychoanalysis. Subject is precisely that which is in excess of any linguistic category and that through this excess generates a series of signifying effects as language strives to gentrify it."
In private, a friend wrote the following:

"Dear Daniel,

I just read your post on realism and your critique of Zizek which is very good and makes an excellent point about how Lacanians (and Zizek) in general are trying to enter into the debates started by the speculative realists/materialists/etc. I have a few questions though, I hope you don't my launching directly into criticism.

Perhaps the real -subject/object issues are not really the same between the Lacanians and, say, Brassier. This is one of those situations where the question already defines the answer. This is ultimately Zizek's error but I think you err precisely in taking him too seriously. To be specific, Lacan's Real occurs within an economy of the symbolic and imaginary: the barred subject faced with objet a does not correspond to those discussions of the real being addressed in realism, neither ontologically nor epistemologically. The legacy of structuralism is right here: the price we pay for the generation of semantic distribution is the alienation from the real.

Zizek's point precisely is that it is this precise exchange that is the real. I would disagree here with your paragraph that starts "put simply". If Zizek and other Lacanians want to argue that the rule is precisely a fracture within discourse itself (barred S <-> a) and that is what truth is: well obviously there is no real conversation to be had with Sellars, Brassier, etc. We are talking about different things.

Now we get to your brief comment about Badiou. I would say that the matheme does not touch the real in Badiou because there is no real. Being, yes. Truth, yes. Knowledge, yes. No real. What is more important is that despite all the differences between Badiou and the Lacanians, they share on this point that you are criticizing. That is: for Badiou the very possibility of ontology is rooted in the inaccesibility of the unity that underlies the Parmenidean condition in its original meaning: what is not one, is not. By arguing that the one is not, mathematics doesn't really "touch" the real. What it does is fully flesh out what is being "not one". This is a version, again, of Zizek's point, which locates being (if we want to call that "real") on its incapacity to be grasped "adequately" or "qua ens".

Having said this about Badiou, I want to empahsize again that I do not think there is a real in Badiou nor do I think that he can play any significant role in these discussions. The problem is that they talk past each other.

Let me know what you think of these brief reflections.

Hope you are well.

Despite the pertinence of these rejoinders, I think my original criticisms, if read carefully, anticipate these potential rebuttals, and show that nevertheless the indicated problems remain for these thinkers. But I thought I might use this as a way to clarify what I think is precisely at stake in the axis composed by Zizek, Lacan and Badiou, in spite of their differences.  Predictably, Hegel turns out to play a somewhat important role here.

I - Zizek and Lacan: Why it's not just a different question

As indicated above, the main problem both Levi and my friend indicated apropos my reading of Lacan and Zizek, is that I illegitimately import standards proper to the concept of the Real in contemporary realist debates, and which are enveloped by ontological and epistemological concerns, with Lacan's psychoanalytic concepts. Levi targets the residual concern with representation in my account; my other friend, in turn, simply indicated that the Real couldn't be thought of as pertaining to a mind-independent reality, and therefore couldn't be judged in accordance to standards set by philosophers in regards to that problematic. 

With regards to Lacan and Zizek, I think a few observations are in order. I certainly agree in that Lacan does not want to formulate his thinking about the Real in epistemological, or indeed ontological, terms. Nevertheless, I think it is important to distinguish between what an author says they are doing and what they effectively end up doing; or put differently, between what they want to say and what they commit themselves to saying. I recently wrote in more extensive length why I think that, in spite of Lacan's 'anti-philosophical' attempts to wrest the theory of desire that psychoanalysis produces away from classical ontologico-epistemological concerns, he ends up effectively cornered into a sort of methodological quandary, that results from the elision of representation. Finally, I think that this quandary demands, in spite of its protestations to the contrary, from us to read Lacan as moving within a philosophical register, which indeed implicitly relies on representation.

       With that said, I think that Lacan's account of the Real is certainly ambiguous: on the one hand, we have the structuralist adherence to the immanence of the signifier, and therefore of the articulation of desire between the imaginary and the symbolic. On the other hand, we have a conception of the Real as that which resists symbolization, and of the recalcitrance of Real desire to the order of the signifier. But how to attempt to give an account of this separation between the Real and the symbolic-imaginary, without thereby ontologizing desire, in its structural coupling between the barred subject and the Real object? My contention is that, beginning from Seminar XI onwards, Lacan begins to flirt with the idea that mathematization allows precisely for this kind of operation. On the one hand, as Russell had already noted, the matheme subtracts itself from the order of the symbolic, because it is not inherently meaningful. Thus, we cannot 'translate' mathematical formulas or their syntactical composition into ontological, or epistemological terms. Of course, for Lacan, this is precisely a crucial requirement in dislodging psychoanalysis from (ego)-psychology, which continues to reify the subject as an individual, and which must therefore tacitly remain encumbered in the imaginary-symbolic envelopment of the signifier, and of the symptom. 

What the matheme offers, in turn, is a non-translatable formal ideography recalcitrant to such operations. But the question then becomes about how we can distinguish between the Real of the mathematic inscription, and that of the Real phenomenon or 'Real desire' that psychoanalysis is in the process of providing a theory of. And my claim is that this forces Lacan, and consequently Zizek, into a methodological quandary. On the one hand, it is clear that he cannot avow for the separation between Real inscription and Real phenomenon without reactivating the distinction between representing and represented, signifier and signified, that marks epistemological discourse. On the other hand, it seems clear that if psychoanalysis is to be a theory of desire, rather than just another phantasy, circulating around its own proper impossible object, the formalizations it carries out and the claims it makes about desire cannot be identical to the Real desire that the analyst is set to deal with in practice. This is because if we conflate the generality of the statements/formulas with the analytic transference with the analysand, then the theoretical practice that psychoanalysis embodies, and the clinical practice, become conflated. But short of accounting for this separation, it renders suspect the theoretical status of psychoanalysis, purporting to have done away with representation.

So the question becomes: what is the relation between these three crucial levels:

a) The Real of desire, in its structural coupling between the barred subject, and the object-cause.

b) The claims of psychoanalysis, that are still formulated by way of the signifier.
c) The formulas of psychoanalysis, that formalize the structures described by those claims.

And I think here is where Lacan must tacitly rely on both an ontologization of Real desire, on the one hand, and an epistemological account of the relation between the claims that psychoanalysis makes, the formulas it produces, and the Real phenomena that these claims describe. For the matheme would be truly 'meaningless', and couldn't count as a formalization of anything, unless psychoanalytic discourse and claims held a prerogative when describing the general structure of desire. But what sets this prerogative for psychoanalysis, considering that Lacan insists that there is no 'meta-language', and that, like structuralism demands, the signifier does never reach out onto things, but defers invariably to other signifiers, eliding any representationalism? And by the same token, how are we to understand the difference between the formal reality of desire and the subject, which 'slides through the signifying chains' tethered to the formal vacuity of the impossible object, and the formalization of psychoanalytic claims? My position is then that although Lacan wants to say that 'Real desire' preconditions its objectification in discourse, it is actually the objectification of desire in psychoanalytic discourse which conditions the reification of desire as Real, and the matheme as adequate to its formalization. These are the relevant passages from my paper, which begin by a statement from Lacan, and which the reader should obviate in case they have read the paper in the past, or if they so wish to forward to the conclusions:


"There is a fundamental ambiguity in the use we make of the word 'desire'. Sometimes we objectify it- and we have to do so, if only to talk about it. On the contrary sometimes we locate it as the primitive term, in relation to any objectification." (S2, pp. 225) This ambiguity is not trivial whatsoever. For if desire must be objectified in order to be spoken about, in what sense is it any different than any of the other terms that philosophers or scientists purportedly use to describe phenomena of all kinds, desire included? How are we to understand the claim that desire is simultaneously of the order of signifier and that which conditions any objectification whatsoever? How to address the Real of the libidinal subject and the Real of the object if, like Zizek insists, "There is no ontology of the Real: the very field of ontology, of the positive order of Being the Real are mutually exclusive: The Real is the immanent blockage or impediment of the order of being, what makes the order of Being inconsistent..." (LTN; Pg. 958). 

         This problem is particularly acute: Lacan insists that desire cannot be ontologised. But then what is it that psychoanalytic theory is doing when they 'objectify' desire "if only to speak of it"? How could such an act constitute anything but the making of an ontological valence? Despite his precautions, by flattening the symbolically enveloped epistemological relation between knowing individual and known object into the relation between the Real of the unconscious subject and the impossible object, Lacan seems to be effectively ontologizing the relation between the desire and its object-cause. The deflection of the transcendental relation between words and things at the level of the symbolic is coupled to a reification of the relation between the desiring subject and desired object, at the point where the Real of both becomes indiscernible. The Real of desire appears thereby as the ontologization of the relation between the Real subject and the Real object, as the distinction between them becomes a nullity. Desire as precondition for symbolic-ideal objectification is the reification of the transcendental correlation between subject and object, by reducing it to a formal difference allegedly intractable by conceptual means. For psychoanalysis to be a theory of desire, it's symbolically enveloped statements must conditioned by Real desire, rather than statements being the condition for mere 'talk' about the Real. For the latter would merely duplicate the philosophical 'myths' in question.

        Yet to claim that desire is not just one more signifier in the commerce of the symbolic, but rather the enabling condition for signification and objectivation, is once again to reactivate the relation between signifier and signified, only this time in terms of desire as Real precondition for objects understood as linguistically individuated posits.  In other words, although Lacan has done away with the transcendental relation of reference at the level of the symbolic, he still depends on such connection between the Real of desire, in its formal vacuity suspended in the subject-object polarity, as the condition of possibility for the symbolic individuation of the signifier. This is to covertly ontologise desire as an Aristotelian 'first mover', as the 'ground of being', as Ineffable Being stripped even of the honor of the name. And since symbolic objectification occurs on condition of the Real unobjectifiable cause, it follows that even the theory of desire, that psychoanalysis purports to advance, is conditioned on separation between the claims and formulas about desire, and desire itself.  In other words, if Lacan claims that the objectification of desire relates to a pre-objectified desire, then he has reactivated the referential relation between signifier and signified, sign and referent, in the dichotomy between objectual desire-for-us and unobjectifiable desire-in-itself. This surrenders Lacan to a bizarre, libidinal paradox of Kantianism. But to do that he must once again rehabilitate not just the ontological valence of desire as such, but the epistemological valence of the relation between desire's objectification in language and the depths of the desire that it bridges us to in the act of theorizing it, that is, in the making of claims and formulas that express it or which are about it. It is impossible to understand Lacan's claim that desire is a 'precondition' for its objectification unless one reenacts this philosophical cunning of the original psychoanalytic coup against philosophy and science. 


First, a possible answer is to leave it open that psychoanalysis may gain traction with respect to Real desire, via the objectification of the signifier. That is, the signifier might grant access to desire as an unknowable, unobjectifiable, but nevertheless thinkable condition of possibility for signification (a variety of 'weak correlationism'[1]). Under this light, Lacan's account of desire as Real precondition begins to startlingly resemble the minimal realism of Heidegger, for whom the opaqueness of the Earth qua unobjectifiable being stands as necessarily refractory to the variegated structure of Worldhood, with its populating entities and individuations at the ontic level. Real desire would be the proto-ontological motor conditioning, ironically, the merely ontic register of being and the symbolic investment of symptoms. The early Lacan seems to indicate this much when he claims in a rather cryptic passage: "Desire... is the desire for nothing namable... this desire lies at the origin of every variety of animation. If being were only what it is there wouldn't be room to talk about it. Being comes into existence as an exact function of this lack." (SII, pp 223). This is the direction in which the later Lacan, through his idea of the Real as that which resists symbolization, seems to have succumbed, as we shall see below[2].

          Alternatively, in this first re-philosophizing scenario, the structure of desire remains epistemically accessible without residue, but confined to the signifying order, in which case Lacan is involved in a bizarre structuralist parody of textual idealism. Yet as we surmised above, this cannot be done, strictly speaking, without a qualitative distinction that vitiates the structural uniformity of the signifier. In other words, it requires a qualitative distinction within the order of the signifier, a typology that sets those signs which map the structure of desire from those which are merely within the libidinal commerce of phantasy, and so those which are theorized by the former in expressing their conditions of possibility. Both options in this scenario rehabilitate the philosophical spooks that Lacan took to have demoted, at the price of reactivating the possibility of a special kind of reference or relation between signifiers, apart from the articulation of the four discourses, and with it one must accept the neutral possibility of attaining the status of a 'meta-language' to save psychoanalytic theory from itself.

        The second alternative, foreclosing the explanatory purchase on desire, and leaving the exteriority of Real desire unthinkable, shuns the status of psychoanalysis as a theory and surrenders it to a sophistic endeavor marking its internal contradiction (a variety of strong correlationism). This is the tragedy that we surmised above, when showing that psychoanalysis couldn't even surrender its rights to knowledge if it fully relinquishes its epistemic vocation, and the possibility of distinguishing between Real desire and its theorization. For in this scenario, the Lacanian edifice ends up undermining itself, rendering the conceptual endeavor it pursues into utter incoherence, the knowledge of desire undermining its theorization, and the theorization of desire undermining the possibility of knowledge of it[3].

         As we suggested above, however, Lacan seems to have progressively realized that he couldn't do without explaining how a theory of Real desire relies on such a conceptual envelopment, as evinced in a particularly telling passage: "[Our] conception of the concept implies that the concept is always established in an approach that is not unrelated to that which is imposed on us, as a form, by infinitesimal calculus. Indeed, if the concept is modeled on an approach to the reality that the concept has been created to apprehend, it is only by a leap a passage to the limit, that it manages to realize itself. We are then required to say in what respect- under what form of finite quantity, I would say- the conceptual elaboration known as the unconscious may be carried out." (SXI: pp. 19) The metaphor is that of an asymptotic approach to the Real via the matheme, forever removed from the concept's touch.

            Yet at this point, signaling both the beginning of a mathematical obsession and that of a poetic escape, Lacan begins to opt for the first horn of the dilemma and to surrender psychoanalysis to what appears under all lights to be a re-philosophizing of its fundamental task, along with the valence of knowing. A passion for the purity of formalization and the inscription, which begins sliding down to the notion that the matheme is closest to the Real. The matheme becomes the receptacle of a pure transmission, insofar as formalization subtracts writing from its conceptual envelopment, prizing it free from any semblance of meaning or intention. This is why, for Lacan, "The mathematical formalization of signifierness runs counter to meaning." (SXX, pp. 93) The matheme is said to be closest to the Real insofar as it formalizes while symbolizing nothing: it has a Real status insofar as it cannot be positivized in a representation. The Real subtracts itself from all positive content and all imaginary-symbolic envelopments; it is delivered only to the pure act of transmission, the transference of the analyst's intervention which opens the promise for the traversal of the phantasy. Just like the subject, there can be thus no theoretical knowledge of the Real: the latter cannot be totalized or unified by a predicate, or thought of consistently through definable properties. Therefore, it cannot be qualitatively determined so as to be tractable conceptually: "If there is a notion of the real, it is extremely complex and, because of this, incomprehensible, it cannot be comprehended in a way that would make an All out of it."[4] What formalization enables, Lacan wants to say, is not a representation of desire and so of a knowledge about the Real, but rather an experience or 'act' with respect the Real, a possibility for transference in analysis: "Truth cannot convince, knowledge becomes act.[5]" (Ibid; Pg. 104)

          And yet, as we saw, as much as the matheme itself remains recalcitrant to the symbolic, it is just as true that Lacan cannot dispense of the task of deploying the matheme to formalize psychoanalytic concepts and structures. Lacan himself says that the formalization is the formalization of the signifier: of whatever is articulated through the signifier, psychoanalytic claims included. But if mathematics can operate to formalize psychoanalysis, this is because formalization operates over the concepts and claims that psychoanalysis deploys. But in order for psychoanalytic claims and concepts to be any more apt for the formalization which 'touches the Real' of desire, then the claims of psychoanalysis must be in some respect peculiarly related to the Real of the unconscious, or else the formalization would appear arbitrarily dependant on a discursive register. Yet the on what methodological grounds could we assess whether psychoanalytic enjoy this priority, if not epistemological or semantic?

         At this juncture, the claim that the matheme resists translation is merely to refuse to explain how it is that it functions as a formalization adequate to the statements of psychoanalysis, and which concern the Real as much as the symbolic or the imaginary. The matheme is said not to obey the norms of knowledge or enter into the rule of the symbolic, but at the same time is coordinated with a series of theoretical interpretations, granting it rights before the Real. But what grounds this proximity between the matheme and the Real, as regulated by psychoanalytic concepts? Without explaining this connection, psychoanalysis fails to adequately account for the relation between the practice of formalization and the theoretical statements which provide the semantic interpretation for the mathematical formulas. For the psychoanalyst needs not only the matheme which is recalcitrant to meaning, but a series of theoretical claims explaining how the matheme formalizes certain structures. Without this connection, any mathematical inscription cannot count as the formalization of anything, is truly 'meaningless', and there would be nothing to distinguish pure mathematical forms from Real psychic structures[6]. This would render psychoanalysis complicit with a kind of Pythagorean upsurge. Just like unobjectifiable desire was 'objectified' in theory only to speak of it, the Real non-translatability of the matheme is translated by psychoanalytic theory since, without such a theorization, the matheme could not stand for the formalization of anything whatsoever. The interesting paradox is therefore that although in order for the matheme to be non-translatable to any discursive register that operates under the symbolic it must, paradoxically, be able to be translated into the conceptual register of psychoanalysis, for the latter provides the interpretation without which, the abstract terms would fail to account for anything.

         What this evinces is that psychoanalysis ultimately is forced to speak of the Real ambiguously: in one sense it said to pertain to formalization in its untranslatable dimension, and in another to desire as the unobjectifiable condition for any discourse. It is precisely at this juncture that the unobjectifiable Real of desire, touched only in the act of transference, is mediated by a tacit separation from the matheme that ordains it, evincing a division that psychoanalysis ultimately cannot resolve.  Much like for Heidegger Being qua the unobjectifiable opaqueness of the Earth cannot be apprehended conceptually but must be delivered to the poetic word of the thinker and the act of the artist, the Real qua unobjectifiable opaqueness of desire cannot be known but must be delivered to the epistemic opaqueness of the matheme and the transference occasioned by the analyst in act. As Lacan puts it: "Mathematization alone reaches a real - and it is in that respect that it is compatible with our discourse, with analytic discourse- a real that has nothing to do with what traditional knowledge has served as a basis for, which is not what the latter believes it to be- namely, reality, but rather phantasy... The Real, I will say, is the mystery of the speaking body, the mystery of the unconscious." (SXX; pp. 131)

          However, the call for the bodily act signals also the inevitable moment of loss for explanation, the moment in which, no longer capable of separating the thought of the Real from the Real itself, one must surrender all theoretical pretences and en-act the traversal itself, a clinical pilgrimage before the inflections of the symptom through the lessons of formalization. The discursive access to knowing-that becomes delivered to the oblique efficacy of  non-discursive know-how. This is how we should coordinate these two seemingly disparate statements from Lacan: "There is some rapport of being that cannot be known" (SXX, pp. 119, TM), and "If analysis rests on a presumption, it is that knowledge about [subjective] truth can be constituted on the basis of its experience" (Ibid, pp. 91). The impossibility of a knowledge of being is but the obverse of the possibility of knowing how to speak in bringing about the transference. Or as Badiou formulates it: "The paradoxical position of Lacan concerning truth is that there is no knowledge of truth, but finally there is a psychoanalytic knowledge concerning this absence of knowledge. This is the great paradox of the unconscious...a subject can have an experience of its proper Real only in the form of an act." (Badiou, 2010)

       The levels must be clearly demarcated: the analytic transference enjoins the traversal of the phantasy and is supported by the formalization of the symbolic by the matheme. But as we have seen, the operation of formalization which demarcates the positions and structures is in turn supported by the conceptual register of psychoanalytic theory itself. Lacan can thus claim that: "It is in the very act of speaking that makes this formalization, this ideal meta-language, ex-sist." (SXX, Ibid; pp 119) The two Reals glare forth in their unresolved difference: the pure form of the mathematic inscription, recalcitrant to incorporation within the symbolic order of language, and Real of desire in the passage to the pure act that deposes all representational knowledge, where the traversal of the phantasy takes place. As Badiou stresses: "This act is like a cut in language and also a cut in the ordinary representation of the world- a representation which is imaginary. So the act suddenly isolates the Real from its normal collection to the imaginary and symbolic orders." (Badiou, 2010).


    I encourage readers to take a look at the rest of the paper, since there I develop my reading and case in much more thorough fashion. 

With regards to Badiou, I think that he basically appropriates the structuralist move that Lacan makes apropos psychoanalysis into a philosophical register. Thus, the matheme is, for Badiou, adequate to the thinking of being qua being, because it resists translation into transcendental terms, thereby refusing envelopment by 'bourgeois epistemology'. The latter, as one does well to note, remains encumbered in the "third dogma of empiricism" that distinguishes between form and content, and which thereby conditions all forms of 'naturalist' epistemology and ontology, even still in the case of Quine. But Badiou goes further than this, because he avows explicitly the extensional core of set-theory to resist intensionality, which for him is what remains of Aristotelian essences in mathematized logic. Thus, the mathematization of being allows him to subtract the latter from the One, or render it 'inconsistent', insofar as it refuses any qualitative determination. This works to simultaneously deflate the (Kantian and post-Kantian) transcendental problematic of the distinction between thought and reality, or form and content, in favor of an immanent ontology of the pure multiple, and later a phenomenology with a 'subjectless object'. Yet the price to be paid for this liquidation of 'empirical content' is an ontological reification of form or ideality, which results in an endorsement of a form of the Parmenidean thesis according to which being and thinking are one and the same. And at this juncture, Lacan and Badiou meet again: in conversation, Badiou told me that precisely because one cannot distinguish between mathematic inscription and being-in-itself, the matheme is 'closest to the Real'. 

   But in my estimation, if epistemic indiscernibility ensues as a criterion for ontological identity, then short of rendering possible a materialism, Badiou has reified, like Plato and Hegel before him, the intelligible at the price of eviscerating sensibility and content. This is the invariable result that obtains when one folds the epistemic into the ontological, or logic and metaphysics, as Hegel shows. Nevertheless, if one cannot distinguish between our thought or inscriptions about being and being as such, then we yield a form of Platonist idealism, which becomes difficult to differentiate from Pythagoreanism. Indeed, in conversation with Luke Fraser and Ray Brassier, I have become increasingly convinced that, in spite of his extraordinary advances in Logics of Worlds, the fundamental problem in Badiou continues to be the articulation between mathematical and non-mathematical situations, so as to avoid reifying mathematics ontologically (like he claims from the start).

   Yet whereas in B&E the articulation between the ontological and non-ontological was tantamount to the distinction between the mathematical and non-mathematical, where the latter was theorized through the former by a process of analogy (like Lyotard, Deleuze, and others claimed), in LOW Badiou proceeds to give a mathematical formalization of the consistency of Worlds, or non-ontological situations, so that the crucial connection then becomes the articulation between set-theoretical ontology, and category-theoretical phenomenology. In spite of these advances, I believe that the fundamental question about the relation between the mathematical and the non-mathematical remains, and forced him into a quandary not unlike that of Lacan. That is, if Badiou wants to claim there is such a thing as non-mathematical reality, not of the order of being, but rather the 'unthinkable' or 'unknowable' by cognitive means, then he has committed himself to a form of correlationism. I am afraid this is the position that one would have to draw if the claim that Badiou is simply 'not concerned with the Real' in any sense analogous to that proper to transcendental philosophers holds. But if Badiou wants to eviscerate any notion of inscription-independent reality altogether, as Hegel does, then he has effectively endorsed a form of Pythagoreanism, where all situations, ontological and non-ontological, must be mathematized. It is the latter which, I think, ultimately must be Badiou's position, in spite of his ambiguous proviso that the claim that ontology is set-theory is a claim about discourse, and not about the world.

Now, the reason why I think Sellars is important for these discussions, and where I think some crucial cross-breeding can be done, is that he proposes to reconcile nominalism about semantics, with realism about ontology. He thus proposes to offer an account that, like structuralism, does not appeal to a relation between words-things to flesh out semantic proprieties, in turn offering a full blown inferentialist semantics, while at the same time advocating a process ontology of his own. I am currently working on a paper explaining how precisely this works, and what I think is most valuable about this strategy; but the basic idea I would like to extirpate from it is the following one:

We can agree with Badiou in that materialism, indeed philosophy, requires the rehabilitation of the Platonic axis between truth and doxa, in order to stave off the (neo)-sophistic conflation of the former into the latter. But I think it is also important to understand Badiou's work as operating on the second crucial Platonic axis distinguishing between reality and appearance, in terms of the intelligible and the sensible. I think that Badiou, like Plato and Hegel, proposes to identify reality or 'being' with intelligibility, and demote sensibility to appearance or doxa. In the three philosophers, what we obtain is a trivialization of sensibility as that which is not real, at the price of reifying ideality ontologically, in order to save rationalism from the phenomenological reification of being as an irrational Otherness, only tractable by poetic-practical means.

The Sellarsian alternative proposes, in turn, rather to insist on the reality of appearances, while rendering this reality fully intelligible, while refusing to reify ideality metaphysically. We can understand the ontological valence of appearances, as part of objective reality, without thereby forcing us into separating, in dualist spirits, between the ideal and the real.  Now, this is not to say all reality is sensible, which is the panpsychist hypothesis. Rather, it means that sensibility can be both a) ontologically investigated, and b) that it conditions our knowledge about the external world. Realism obtains precisely by refusing the ontological reification of the sensible or the intelligible, while recognizing the logical irreducibility of the intelligible, while its causal reducibility. The trick then consists in finding out a way of preserving a positive role for sensibility to anchor us to the mind-independent world, without thereby render it ubiquitous. And this requires, in turn, that we distinguish between the semantic-epistemic conditions under which we can talk and adjudicate claims about the real, and the positive metaphysical claims that result once we have cleared up our semantics. Finally, Sellars will propose to think of the connection between language and the world in terms of a non-semantic relation or 'picturing' which, developing on the work of Wittgenstein, seeks to establish how second-order isomorphy obtains between matter-of-factual claims qua 'natural linguistic objects' and real objects and events in the world. 

     The details here are complex, as ever with Sellars, but the major result is that in persisting on the Kantian methodological distinction between reasons and causes, while refusing their metaphysical separation, we can understand how while there is an ontological priority of the logical on the natural (without proper evolutionary conditions sapience wouldn't obtain), there is an epistemological priority of the natural on the logical (only sapient creatures who inhabit the logical space of reasons can adjudicate claims, and undertake normative statuses required for knowledge). In short, the Sellarsian alternative proposes to preserve the distinction between form and content, in the name of a revisionary naturalism, that avoids reifying intelligibility at the price of evacuating sensibility (idealism: Plato, Hegel, Badiou), or reifying sensibility at the price of demolition intellection (Bergson, Deleuze...).

      I think here some crucial work can be done in tandem with both psychoanalysis and Badiou. The former integrate a thinking of how libidinal structures are both causally and normatively constitutively binding the Real practices and transference, and the symbolic. The latter provides a formal account of change relative to structural conditions by modeling truth on generic sets, defusing the romantic exuberance tethered to creation 'ex nihilo', which including post-Kuhnean approaches reifying change and discontinuity in the way of instrumentalizing science. Incidentally, this is also a fertile ground to assimilate insight by people such as Ladyman and Ross, who further the case against instrumentalist approaches by insisting that discontinuity at the level of content in scientific theories is underwritten by continuity at the level of form. I think if can sort out the pragmatics with the semantics here we can integrate both approaches beyond the strict axiomatics of mathematical Platonist approaches, while opening the playing field for a discussion of not only traditional epistemic practices governed by standard proprieties of inference, but all sorts of intricate articulations. In a larger scheme, I am looking to amplify the Brandomian project of integrating pragmatics with semantics, with the Badiouean project of providing a synoptic ontology-phenomenology adequate to the articulation of different thought procedures.