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).
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
(Made Man from Alaq (accretion/clot
The catatonic knight, the “passional” knight, stands in the field of snow staring at the red blood amidst the white expanse; he has forgotten where he is or who he is or why he came to be there. Only one subjectivity at a time; only a super-plastic, re-adjustable, “adaptive” set of behaviors in each given situation. Deleuze’s Perceval is a cybernetic machine: he is taken out of the quest-milieu and into that of romance, a catatonia waiting for further assignments of action-milieus. He is capable of forgetting, completely, even his own name, and what is much more important, even his low-level bodily habits, and so becomes the emptiest subject, container, de-calibrated even of former habits to allow for maximum potentiality of becoming: if you become nothing, you can become everything. This is why it is only Perceval, the “idiot” knight of recurring amnesia that can have a chance at finding (becoming?) the holy grail of Cybernetic Capitalism.
Pasolini’s Arabian Nights: characters so flat and contingent as to be completely unbelievable. They are purely affective feedback mechanisms. From crying and running urgently after the lost beloved, they happen into sexual encounters that has them immediately forget and re-calibrate their behavioral pattern and start laughing and making dirty jokes. Burning with the desire (nay, the appetite) to be finally united with the beloved, they suddenly fall asleep at a moment’s notice; even the viewer herself is thrown from one story into another without any delay.
But here one must tread carefully for the Knights and the Lovers in Arabian Nights are but fantastical limit players in the game of machinic immanence and where they tread, bodies can never go. Yes, we have spoken of the super-plasticity of the Deleuzian BwO-Shoggoth, Capitalism’s wet dream of what a consumer should be, and indeed a rheology of bodies and networks is needed because what the Cybernetic Organon produces goes beyond the plasticity of the organic and into the realm of the hydraulic, the fluid at their shear points. When you sing the song of “the body is the body” and renounce organs and organization in favor of a destructive plasticity, it is to the new, machinic god of network-Occasionalism that you pray, and “the Singularity” is the only solace he falsely provides for the death of our selves in the name of the body, a body that never was ours but the machine’s shadow on the wall.
Where does the body meet the flows of the networks of data and desire? How does Cyber-Capitalism attempt to realize the connection of the (habituated) body and flat flows of its ever-expanding network (for Cyber-Capitalism is first and foremost, a connector)? Enter liquefaction. Or rather attempts at liquefaction; attempts at lowering the shear point of the habituated organic body, pushing it towards maximum “creativity”.
We began with the human as the accretion of habit over time, the production of human subjectivity from out the fluid flows of experience via the clotting that is “sensory gating” or, in more common terms, adaptation and habituation to stimuli. Thus the human subject has as its genesis the alaq, a clotting, a self-attaching that is its only “essence”. An accretion that is to be understood in terms of neurosis qua biologically-necessary habituation. Thus is the human made a Neurotic, a NARP. But it is in fact not so much a genesis than an epigenesis: the accretive organism that is the human being in its fleshy incarnation assimilates itself through a clotting and jellification, a habituation that draws in and accretes the stimuli in all their historical specificity and makes them its own while being in turn shaped by their force and form. A dialectic of the flesh, a flesh that does not forget. It is a flesh that we share with the non-human animals (Hegel already defined habit-based subjectivity as common to all animals).
In thinking of the human we should think not of what constitutes it vis-à-vis the animal, as has been done in the whole history of philosophy, but of what unites it with the animal or the organic vis-à-vis the artificial, the machinic: utter amnesia. While human amnesia does retain the minimum identity of the habituated subject (working memory, bodily habits like reassembling a gun or riding a bicycle), the AI bases its efficiency on its ability to forget its specialization, its training, and become generic once more, in order to be placed in another data-milieu.
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.
It is in many ways tautological that a philosopher is not only a thinker of reality but also gradually makes reality a product of his thinking. So here we go –
I look at my guitar in the corner of the room. I am looking at it as a present-at-hand object. I really shouldn’t say object, more accurately I am looking at the guitar as a guitar. This is important for me to say this because I believe every unique (or singular) thing is not neutral but has a way of being seen imprinted on it (by this I mean simply what the thing is meant to ‘be’ or ‘do’/ the imprint of the concept/use upon the material/ the way it has been assimilated). As a philosopher of assimilation I would ask – in what way have I been assimilated to experience this specific object? I am not playing the guitar, singing love songs with it or passing the time idly with it. No, I am assimilated toward it as something to be analysed and something that is presented (the power of presentation is not dissimilar from viewing an artwork (it is of a similar assimilative structure)). Simply via visual analogy a chain of various signifiers of ‘guitar’ whiz through my head. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the assimilation of all these guitar signifiers have come from me (neurotic processing), the guitar (a site that activates this chain of signifieds) or whether both myself and the guitar are pawns in an assimilation unfolding (after all, I did not set my sites on the guitar and start talking about it by accident i.e it was all set-up for me in the first place and through the narrative of history). Whichever assimilation it came down to we are now experiencing an assimilation in front of our very eyes; I see different images of guitars from different points in time and areas of space. Some are from magazines, experiences, personal photographs, memories and cultural information (‘Jimi Hendrix’ etc). Most of these I have no direct relation to yet my mind watches the assimilation of them anyway, leading from one to the other simply by visual analogy, then by the analogy of what age I was, and then what city I was in. Each image wants to assimilate beyond its scope (one image wants me to start thinking about throwing T.V’s out of a hotel room (Led Zeppelin/Spinal Tap)). Each pop-culture image can only assimilate the visual qualities (as I was not there to directly interact with the material of the guitar, the tones etc). These less ‘useful’ sensations don’t need to be assimilated for the task at hand but if we were to push further than the ‘visual’ there could be a whole world of tacit and carnal assimilation relating to one another. Proximity and size determine the visualisation of memories (as well as present assimilation’s with objects). Embodiment is crucial for determining the assimilation’s we have as humans with particular sized objects. I consider my reflections on ‘guitars’ as information; not only has this experience occurred in-formation (the subject is in-formation with the object and the images have occurred in-formation) but also the manifestation of the various ‘guitar’ images do not solely lay claim to an external object (represent it) but express much more content that that (affectivity, concepts, history).
In a neo-Hegelian manner it was probably the concepts that set-up this assimilation in the first place i.e the tautological structure of reality describes a world where human concepts and use are imposed onto ‘material’ (‘material’ is yet another tautology, so dont consider me a materialist). So what happened was that I encountered the concept of guitar in my room, and because such a concept has wide historical and accretive denotations (and that such a concept can link quite easily to other concepts such as ‘instrument’) the initial concept I encountered sparked an assimilative chain (purely by the self-negation/identity of the concept or by the production of differences that ensue).
The concept of territory (or proprietary) also comes into play when one momentarily forgets the universally commensurable world of free-floating concepts and starts to create a personal relationship with a certain object (this personal relationship seems to go beyond language games i.e ‘this is my guitar’ etc). I see an indentation where I dropped my guitar at a gig one time, I see that one string is missing, I think of all the songs I have written on it etc. Because these personal concepts can easily become assimilated into the world of free-floating concepts (that famous mark where rockstar X banged his guitar etc), because they are neither subordinate nor more important than all the other assimilative concepts, because these personal concepts do not merely represent an external object or world in their very being, they qualify as forms of information (in-formation) that accrete and soon become propelled on a new assimilative journey.
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…