In this informal chat Johns continues his thoughts on the threefold of experience (Heidegger) and the constant conflicts of concepts which create productive difference (Hegel’s dialectic). Johns suggests that the contemporary ‘subject’ is determined by societies power to employ it as yet another object of value within its system of arbitrary value. Johns explains that this operation functions on the false notion of reality as tautological (pragmatist) and the subject as tautological (the subject as tool).

In this informal chat Charles Johns, editor of The Neurotic Turn, tries to describe his two philosophical terms ‘neurosis’ and ‘assimilation’. He also tries to explain why he thinks these descriptions become necessarily disclosed and why they are necessarily prevalent in our current epoch (for example the exclusion of the definition of neurosis in the 1980’s within the D.S.M created a repressed symptom, or, the uprise of mass-conformism and iphone narcissism shows a larger more acceptable state of neurosis etc).

1) Twin Peaks as cruelty.

Whatever is your stance on the finale of Twin Peaks, one thing is for sure: it was cruel. Open ended and dark, it not only gave no answers to us, but it left our good, immaculate hero stained. After the doppelganger/worms have feasted for the last 25 years on his and his beloved’s carcasses, he then either became lost in an unknown time loop that brought him back to the past, before any of his effort even existed, or stranded in a future, in which every familiar face has been erased from the plane of existence. Of course, for some, this was an act of gratuitous ontological sadism. Far from that, others are convinced that this is a dark metaphysical statement, which doubles one of the most unsettling proposition of deleuzian philosophy.

In Difference and Repetion, Deleuze wrote: «Cruelty is nothing but determination as such, that precise point at which the determined maintains its essential relation with the undetermined, that rigorous abstract line fed by chiaroscuro» (Difference and Repetition, p. 29). The upshot of this statement, which, on a surface level, could just seem a pretty obscure form of philosophical mumbling, is, as Reza Negarestani noted in Differential cruelty, very clearly: existing in all of its varied significances = determination from an undetermined background/Umbratic plane = an act of cruelty. This, of course, doesn’t only entail the conscious processes that we trigger with our actions. For example, being born is, following this skeletal outline of Dark Deleuzism, the cruelest of all determinations, setting in motion an accretion-without-consent against the possibility of non-being/being-one-with-the-the-HyperUnCreation-of-Umbra and chaining each and every one of the newborns to an illusory fixity. As Artaud put it: «For it seems to me that creation and life itself are defined only by a kind of rigor, hence a fundamental cruelty, which leads things to their ineluctable end at whatever cost» (The Theater and Its Double, p. 103). This is, they think, the upshot of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s finale: Judy/the Red Goddess/Umbra eternally wins, because she is able to demonstrate to the starry-eyed Agent Cooper (any accretion whatever) that everything he could possibly do to right the wrongs that haunt him is, at the end of the day, cruel, an act of cruel accretion. He not only will always fail, like Morpheus – too weak not to look back to check the wellbeing of the simulacrum of his loved one, condemning her either to repetition or to non-existence – but he’s always confronted with the cruelty of an ontologically pluralistic universe made of accreted or volatile pneumas.

2) Cruelty as ethics. So that’s it? The non-cruel ontologists may ask. Luckily, the party of cruelty not only has a dismal metaphysics at their disposal, but also a blackened ethics to propose. After all, we know how Judy/the Red Goddess/Umbra wins. Cooper, in an act of all-too-human weakness looked back. He triggered, the party says, the disappearance of Laura Palmer and the destruction of the whole universe. He looked back and undid the whole world with his own eyes. Therefore, the cruel party proposes a radical, mercyless solution: let us be as cruel as Judy, as oceanic as Umbra, let us eat cosmos and let us follow her Chtonic left-hand path of pneumas-without-accretions. Rather than surrendering to Cooper’s humanist fears and behaviors, let us join Judy/The Red Goddess/Umbra. Never look back, no matter how long Sarah will try to capture Laura’s pneuma, without being afraid of the unknown consequences of our journey. After all, no one promised us that we will have the peace we are hoping for; the only thing we really know for sure, is the (existence of an) alien world, radically disfigured by our transgression of time and space. As Negarestani wrote: «In the wake of the philosophy of cruelty, ethics can return to the mathesis of the problem once again wherein the problem is not determined by its solution or conditions but by its capacity to generate fields of the problematic» (Differential Cruelty, p. 82). Judy demands to be destroyed with her own sword and daggers, and be reborn once again in us.

3) She’s universal emptiness. But that’s not enough! The party of cruelty says; if we want to appreciate David Lynch and Mark Frost’s sadomasochistic ontology, we have to push ourselves forward and consider the show in its entirety, not just the finale. This last season, they contend, was the actualization of a greater plan for this universe: the desecration of the fixity of the monistic substance and the annihilation of the World, both inside and outside the Twin Peaks’ mythos. As spectators, we witnessed a grotesque puppet show, whose protagonists resembled the lovely characters we have learned to love in the past two seasons, but felt way too hollow to be the “real” thing. They were as thin as our own breath. Two prime examples were, of course, Dougie Jones and Diane: Dougie Jones looked just like our beloved Coop, but he was, actually, just an empty, lost pneuma. An alternative and not fully realized accretion, stranded in a world in which he was probably never meant to be summoned, of an accretion (Agent Cooper) who, in what we think was our past, we have learned to love. On the other hand, for months, we grew attached to Diane’s loud mouth, only to find out that she was nothing more than a half realized accretion, directed by an alien, malignant will. She was the particular embodiment of a form of universal emptiness, in a dreadful cosmos where not even the owls are what they seem.

4) Us is Them. Therefore, for these theorists, the upshot of the cruel Frostian and Lynchian metaphysics is that there is no such thing as this world. Everyone and everything is a tulpa/accretion of some alien pneuma, set against the non-field (the kabbalistic dark Waters of HyperUnCreation of the Leviathan/Umbra) of the darkened powers/the left hand path/Umbra. Can it be our situation? It is.

5) The endtimes. Hail Umbra.

There is no spatial, chronological or privileged difference anymore between the real and the concept it mirrors. The real is imaginary and the imaginary is real. It is the closing of this distance that creates a flat, immanant and blindly operational space which I call assimilation. We cannot even relapse into older physicalist notions of the real such as external space and time: an action figure toy does not breathe-in the atmosphere of such a ‘space’, it’s context does not refer to that context shared by physical bodies in space and their social-political narrative.

King Kong is no less real than the chair you are sitting on. Both can be represented in external or eidetic space, Both have a use tem in language (i.e “have you seen King Kong?” or “where is my chair?”). Both have other relations that differ from their present use; King Kong is identified through various relations, contexts and histories such as Science-fiction, the toy industry, the film industry, exoticism, the place Skull Island etc.

Reality – the sum of experience – is not weird, funny nor horrific, ‘It’ simply is. The only other capacity that can achieve this indifference, this reality, is neurosis (hence equating neurosis with experience). In Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle neurosis is the only thing that escapes designation (goes ‘beyond’ it). Content in the mind is designated as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘pleasurable’ or ‘painful’ but neurosis is the condition which produces content in the brain; it decides, through repetition, whether X will appear bad or good. In other words, the neurotic capacity to repeat and fixate (i.e to simulate experience) is found in both sane and insane experiences, both happy and sad ones. Ergo neurosis is this indifferent reality that we speak of (or at least the condition for it). The ability of this Expressivist (Deleuze) or Contructivist neurosis is precisely what Baudrillard is talking about when he observes the relative autonomy of simulation and simulacra (from army training courses to Disney Land); that the real is manipulable based on the relatability of signs, and it is only ‘use’ (and the conventionalising of use) that separates the reality of Disney Land from the reality of a romantic relationship, a 9 – 5 job etc. To be sure, there will be simulations (assimilations) that appear without your consent (what has been ontically found in traditional psychological neurosis); your mind will try and make a reality out of something, a web of designations that one could live within. Based on generic and personal dialectics between general concepts (their ‘shareability’) and your experience, such tensions will spark semantic tensions, but this doesn’t have to be exclusively psychological; a man’s fear of nudity might stem from him encountering his parents having sexual intercourse at an early age, but other symptoms can occur simply by living in a restrictive society. The idea of getting up at 6am the next morning is semantically implicated by the state of drunkenness I am in at midnight. These are not neutral concepts changing under circumstances of the individual; they are concepts that have their own pleasure principle, their own likes and dislikes, their own preferable assimilative processes. 

Similar to psychology, however, there seems to be a heuristic difference between process and form; the almost vitalist force of un-designateable reality, of infinite neuroses and assimilations, that only take on meaning when formed and chafed by humans (or living creatures), that become representations amongst other representations like some form of atomistic idealism. The designation of meaning is superimposed onto the domesticated world through our practices, and we inherit these meanings as they enjoy dominion over us or become ‘challenged’ (Nietzsche). The usability of the concept has always carried a correlate of desire with it (the need to be used) and hence concepts cannot be severed from the desire for designation, ergo, concept traces will always tell you more than what is designated on the surface (see Graham Freestone – ‘Spider-Spit’). We always knew this sensitive fragility in the ‘human subject’ (the psychological subject) but now its time to look at the concepts ‘themselves’, as artefacts of the incoherence/incommensurability of present day human.

The first dictum of psychology ; one should never blame themselves for themselves.

Laruelle’s non-philosophy is something that I am thinking through and with at the moment. I will refrain from trying to reduce his ideas or even properly describe them (I am still struggling!). What I wish to do however is suggest how his thinking chimes with certain areas of my philosophy of neurosis and assimilation, and, what I see as an implicit escape route which he sketches out (he would probably disagree with this escape however).

Regarding his belief in a ‘real science’ that works with ‘absolute immanent data’, which comes before philosophy, and regarding the unilateral relationship Being has with ‘The One’ – the problem doesn’t seem to be one of ‘objectivity’ (he denies that his work is initially advocating this) but of a kind of Heideggerian ‘clearing’ ; the ‘space’ between the pure affectivity of philosophical thinking (the ‘decision’) and that of ‘radical immanence’ (the One before identity).

At least for the sake of this post I can see two common operations of thinking this clearing; one of exaggerating and one of distancing. I believe Laruelle does both (and myself too), but whereas my form of distancing is more Derridean (allowing concepts/signifieds to play with themselves or qua the productions of differences beyond that of present-at-hand experience/discourse), Laruelle’s distancing is more from the realist/scientific spirit ( i.e how can I make a meta- discourse that defines human perception/how can I make a meta-discourse that shows the former’s redundancy or inability to encounter ‘the real’?). This ‘realist’ distancing in Laruelle is not simply problematic because of those famous critiques of realism (From Kant to Heidegger) but also because he advocates BOTH scientific progression (regarding the scientific status of the real) AND a form of mysticism, in his words – ‘this outside is an immanent a priori that cannot be conflated, related or totalized (by philosophical thinking)’. Obviously traditional epistemology (or philosophical thinking) is not what is going to get us to the ‘outside’ (even though this ‘outside is immanent), but one of my claims is that the ‘believability’ and ‘use’ of ‘decisional thinking’ (neurosis) may want to tell us that it can. It may not simply tell us that it can but can also simulate (or assimilate) a form of reality that conforms to such thinking (and of socio-political-material reality). The point here is not to argue that decisional thinking (neurosis) creates reality, or that it has to necessarily effect the real, but simply that the realist-scientist or non-philosopher cannot absolutely vanquish this operation of thought. For all of Laruelle’s acceptance of ‘cloning’ (cloning the real) he doesn’t explain how one floats above all these clones to achieve the proper untarnished axioms.

The operation of exaggerating in order for the Heideggerean clearing is common in philosophy. Kant could be seen to exaggerate in his theory of the ‘transcendental aesthetic’; by constituting a realm of sensibility/representations which dialectically points to a field outside of such (the ‘thing in itself’). The philosophical theory of neurosis exaggerates the experience of human thought (defining such as neurotic) by bringing out key features of thought-production (desire/obsession-compulsion, repetition, trauma/memory, disturbance of thoughts, awareness of thoughts) in the hope that such thoughts constitute rather than inhibit a ‘subject’.

Laruelle makes a move of exaggeration by stating that ‘thinking’ is ‘imaginary’ or ‘illusorily self-sufficient’. By describing thinking, the decision and philosophy as ostensibly subsisting unilaterally from ‘The One’ he exaggerates the field of human affectivity to the point where it becomes an asymmetrical epiphenomenon. That thought can generate and auto-produce without starting from ‘the real’ or ‘the one’ chimes well with theories of autopoiesis (systems that reproduce and maintain themselves regardless of both larger or smaller factors/determinations). Again, it is a theory of neurosis that affirms this; the concept may have only a minimal relation (or no relation proceeding the relation) to a ‘real’ or even a conventional socio-historical reality. A concept can relate to other concepts either aleatorically, through the subjects neurosis or through the discreet history of conceptual systems without laying claim to a reality or even a conventional use. This is the concepts autonomous or tautological power, but Laruelle claims that this ‘auto-cloning’ is not ‘real’ (conflating illusion with what is unilaterally/asymmetrically produced but not caused qua ‘The One’) whilst a theory of neurosis would be content in saying that ‘reality’ is both a use term (“did you watch that reality T.V show last night?) and also that reality is simply assimilated in the last instance (or that reality is one assimilation of many planes of assimilation).

If there is any import in stating that reality is unilateral (Laruelle) then the most illuminating question (instead of attempting to undermine this or simply disavow it) would be to ask how the realm of thinking and the realm of radical immanence co-exist  (think Descartes dualism). For example, is there a clue in Laruelle’s language;  there seems to be an un-approximated distance and intimacy of ‘The One’ that destroys the relative constitution of representations and their signifieds (the impossibility and idealism of deconstruction). In other words, is Laruelle’s critique of words and deconstruction (and his use of ‘representationalism’ as solely a pragmatic enterprise) a way of disclosing an experience that not only does away with the reduction and positivism of representationalism (a critique that Bergson and Deleuze have already made) but also of the notion that words, concepts and other possible entities do NOT exist solely as or through representations (signifieds) but only as a unilateral side-effect of the prior ‘vision-as-one’ (i.e radical immanence and universality)?

On The Irreducibility of Concepts and Their Unaccountability (Part One)
The problem of a classical theory of concepts (definitionism), which amounts to the same thing as a classification theory in general, is not only the assumption of some underlying identity of a concept (the same essentialism that Wittgenstein would critique, opting for the notion of ‘family resemblance’ instead) but also the problem of how the ‘subject’ personally associates with the concept it encounters. The critique of the definitional theory of concepts and essences has been well exemplified in thinkers such as Wittgenstein and Deleuze (through polythetic methods and pluralism) yet the critique of a neutral presupposed ground for the ‘shareability’ of concepts is sorely lacking. The two critiques should really come hand-in-hand, unless one decides to give concept formation and analysis a purely socio-historical remit which would make the signified (concept) a purely social-historical product, reducible and diaphanous with socio-historical reality.

In many ways the positivistic attitude towards the shareability of concepts mirrors that same attitude we find in contemporary capitalism and mass conformism; everything can be shared and converted without any significant amount of noise in the process (of consumption).
If we are to take anything from Wittgenstein’s family resemblances (or language games) it should not solely be the account that language determines the reality (or meaning-as-use) of the content it attempts to articulate( we could then reduce concepts to the roles words have in a language game ) but rather the opposite; that the fundamental identity of a concept is never there in the first place but rather extrapolating and assimilating in a given situation (; overlapping similarities in the games that produce and even precede the ‘family’ i.e identity). The shareability of concepts is set ‘in-the-last-instance’ (one could even say reduced in-the-last-instance) but the playfulness of the game always suggests otherwise (i.e the dialectic, conceptual animism/creatures, the agnostic disjunction/decision, the subjective affectivity of the ‘shareholder’ of the concept (the neurotic)). I will explain all these incoherent factors in the succeeding passages…

One of the CEO’s key aims is to investigate the new field of ‘Manifestationism‘. Manifestationism is (like much of the work here) partially inchoate. Of course one could readily argue that all concepts are partially inchoate, this relates to their nature as coherent incoherence. Manifestationism states that all the ways in which being discloses stay in a kind of competition for dominance. All philosophies (science in its various forms included) as such are manifestations. Agents work for manifestations to try to keep them going or even raise them to dominance (in this case the agents are specifically for these ontological systems, as opposed to agents for less ambitious structures like ‘book binding’). No particular manifestation can actually out compete the others, realism will never defeat idealism and vice versa. This is so because the Narp necessarily is structured by agnostic disjunctions which render it incapable of definitely putting to bed any given manifestations. Manifestations use criteria, a priori and a posteriori to give themselves power within Narp pneuminosity.

It is interesting to note in this way that this is not a philosophy like Deleuze’s or Badiou’s that argues for being as pure multiplicity (difference). Rather manifestationism states that generating a philosophy of difference in itself or mathematically irreducible multiplicity simply generates two more manifestations. These manifestations then have their various agents that work for them to promulgate them. In this way manifestationism is a truly meta-philosophical perspective which is quite hard to deny. Why is it hard to deny? Because to deny it renders the agent of any other ontology as dogmatic as what would be considered by many unreasonable dogmatics (religion). In denying manifestationism one must assert that your ontology is correct and other Narps should submit to this. Of course that’s exactly what the agents of various religions and sciences do assert. One appeals to transcendent or pneuminous interference criteria to bolster their claims and the other to umbratic restraint. The criteria of umbratic restraint currently hold better sway hence the science agents hold the key pneuminous territories. To make themselves more accessible to science agents, religions at least partially allow themselves to be compatible with sciences. But of course even within science as a field for establishing ‘knowledge’ multiple ontologies compete for territory. The situation is truly bewildering in complexity. The denial that there are competing ontological regions might be made of faith (even scientific faith) but given that the agent is only working on the basis of ultimately incoherent criteria, it is ultimately only faith. Manifestationism cannot be denied without asserting dogmatic ontological monism. Even the nagging sense that there is a reality we can uncover (umbratic restraint) is just a manifestation. The manifestation that there is only one manifestation is just a manifestation that (because of agnostic disjunction) can never gain full dominance. Manifestationism is either psychologically true or ontologically true, no revelation can resolve this disjunction, there are just the agents of the different manifestations.

The crucial issue for the CEO’s work is whether manifestationism entails pneuminosity. It would seem this is impossible as pneuminosity itself would just be one more manifestation. Yet we believe a disjunctive description of  either localised pneuminous accretions (restricted to the Narp, and passed between in them in semiotic systems) or a the magickally compatible free floating pneuminous accretions (capable of action both within the Narp space-time and able to bypass it) gives the best description of the relation between manifestationism and the Narp experience. Needless to say though we employ the term Narp, we are aware it too is itself the product of a manifestation.

“We too are agents.”

It is a curious thing in one sense that the Deleuze-Narp had such a distaste for the Wittgenstein-Narp, for inchoate in the latter’s work  is all the conceptual freedom you could ever desire. Both these philosophers describe a situation of a liberated language. ‘Meaning as use’ allows words to play freely over the world with only an agreement to determine the meaning. The Deleuze-Narps’s pleasure that non-philosophical readers of Anti-Oedipus/Thousand Plateaus made whatever use they liked of his concepts attests exactly to his Wittgensteinian alliance.

This alliance can be neatly phrased by noting that the Wittgenstein-Narp brings about a deterritorialization of language. ‘Language going on holiday’ is used to imply that there might be an error that gives confusion, but in fact the Wittgenstein-Narp’s pithy phrase describes a travelling that is not necessarily in error, but rather just a reaching out of pneuminous lines (of flight) into new accretions. The appeal to say that we can solve philosophical problems by pneuminous disentanglement only works if you can know that there are no criteria for re-applying the concept in its new home e.g. because of the problem of Magick, Descartes is correct to apply a super-scepticism to everything (but not in his resolution).

Of course part of the issue is that (the later) Wittgenstein-Narp supposedly rejects metaphysics whereas the Deleuze-Narp thinks developing further fluid conceptual metaphysics is the way to go. The Wittgenstein-Narp in fact doesn’t have any problem with this per se, all it requires is that there are criteria for the metaphysics (here we encounter one of the central CEO arguments i.e. that pneuminous interference supplies the criteria for metaphysics).  That is, the very reason we can talk about the metaphysics of pneuma is because pneuminous interference is something we all experience and can easily communicate with one another about.