Sunday, January 14, 2018

Deflating Modernity (Part 4) Nietzsche's futurity against Modernity's presentism

the blighted environs of M-normativity (Thomas Struth, Crosby Street, Soho,1982)

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In this post we examine the advent of postmodernity and what that means for M-normativity. Particularly, we analyze Nietzsche's idea of futurity and how it subverts Modernity's presentism.  

For the presentist present and past are incommensurable. A presentist talks about the past, but the past can only be judged from the present. The presentist accepts that norms change, but any evaluation of norms has to be present-bounded. The presentist is a subjective relativist with respect to the present: the past's norms may be Ok for the past but not for the present.

M doubles up the lemma. It adopts a presentist stance to norms, but in addition, it presents these norms oppositionally. In other words, M's present rules over the now & the now-block with everything in it. So, for an M- theorist, postmodernity is just a part of M.

An obstacle to this view is Hegel's very idea of Ground (see our previous post). How could the presentist makes sense of this jetztzeit unless he had a frame of reference to compare it with? To call out "X" presupposes some form of choice from members of a class other than those in the present.
Yet, even from an "oppositional" perspective, postmodernity presents difficult questions repressed under layers of theoretical hubris.1 The weight of a theory can be ponderous. Positions that have come to prominence become entrenched after years of back and forth between opposing sides. Discussions become compartmentalized and owned by specific tendencies. From entrenched positions very little can be negotiated, and legitimate questions are dismissed as derivative or spurious.

We start with M's bombastic presentism.
Because the new, the modern world is distinguished from the old by the fact that it opens itself to the future, the epochal new beginning is rendered constant with each moment that gives birth to the new. [...] Within the horizon of the modern age, the present enjoys a prominent position a contemporary history. (PDM p. 6)    
The term "epochal" seems neutral. Things begin and end (except M of course). Recall that Habermas would prefer to argue for "oppositionality" rather than "chronology." But M's use of "oppositionality" is a straw man. Opposing concepts don't presuppose anything "epochal."

Concepts and time/space are independent metaphysical categories. (unless the M-theories is an anti-realist, one hopes he agrees that time/space exists independently of any concept).

That M is a period within world history is a matter of consensus. But consensus doesn't necessarily anchor truth (think the consensus on slavery among southern landowners during early 19th Century America, or Arian Supremacy during the Nazi years in Germany).    

So, the game here is that M makes historical claims while metaphysics hides behind the curtains.

M turns history into teleological theatrics. 

What are the methods of history? Like other disciplines in the Human Sciences, history is a big pottage of ideas, competing positions and methodologies. Generally, historians stay away from metahistory (a kind of independent auditor looking at the overall discipline). But being that metahistory is not so much about history but how history talks about itself, the talking is often hijacked by "foreign" interests (i.e., ideology, or good ol' metaphysics).

Why is this relevant? Because Hegel's axiomatics.  

Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History is the Romantic metahistoric manifesto that brings together two reluctant siblings: philosophy and history. This is how M-normativity is born. 

As time passes M-theory get more gluttonous and M-theorists turn M into a gargantuan hyperobject with which to explain all imaginable phenomena, plus M should last forever.

Let's imagine a regular historian doing research, negotiating different methodologies available to her, whether voluntaristic, Marxist, sociological, interdisciplinary, Feminist, etc. Despite the differences, the common denominator is the gathering of past facts in order to build inferences to explain it. These historic inferences remain fallible approximations.2

How could History, a discipline whose raison d'etre is to theorize changes in the past, declare an "epochal state of permanence?" How could an epoch in history get as it were out of its time to dictate: "I'm here to stay"?

Here is M's dogma:
... [M] opens itself to the future, the epochal new beginning rendered constant with each moment that gives birth to the new.
Let's take a look at the emergence of what M-theorists pejoratively call postmodernity. We should not even let the "post" prefix fool us. M-theorists don't mean "post" as posterior to M. They mean it as a mere (to bring a Hegelian shibboleth to our discussion) "detour."3

But even granting the M-theorist that postmodernity is "oppositional" will be enough to show that M-normativity is a cheat, a Munchausen pulling himself from his bootstraps.  

the collapse of M-normativity? (Pruit Igoe, 1968) 

Nietzsche, the first postmodern

Who's the bearer of postmodern iniquity? An eccentric, blasphemous, sickish professor of philology by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche. To double up the weird: a Schopenhauerian and a Wagnerian.

Nietzsche is said to have "broken away from the spell of M."

How did he do it?
Nietzsche renounces a renewed  revision of the concept of reason and bids farewell to the dialectic of enlightenment... [He] uses the ladder of historical reason in order to cast it away at the end and to gain a foothold in myth as the other of reason. (PDM, 86)
What myth?
...  an investigation that led him beyond the Alexandrian world and beyond the Roman Christian world back to the beginnings, back to the "ancient Greek world of the great, the natural and the human." (PDM, Idem)
The first postmodern is he who challenges M-normativity! Habermas is not shy to castigate dissension.
On this path the antiquarian-thinking "latecomers" of modernity are to be transformed into "firstlings" of a postmodern age. (PDM, Idem)
"Postmodern age?" Habermas' rhetoric betrays him. Does "age" equals "epoch"? No two distinct contemporaneous epochs are allowed by M-normativity. The culprit of this early jumble is Nietzsche. He incarnates "modern time consciousness" in search for a mythical time that is to be found not in the past but in the future.
Only the future constitutes the horizon for the arousal of mythical pasts. "The past always speaks as an oracle: only as masterbuilders of the future who know the present will you understand it." (PDM, 87)
Nietzsche's idea of the future is "utopian," directed to "the god who is coming, which makes Nietzsche less reactionary than say, a Romantic, who craves to go "back to origins."

Why Dionysus?
Don't we hear anything of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Don't we smell anything of the divine decomposition? Even Gods decay. God is dead; God remains dead, and we have killed him. How shall we con sole ourselves, we, the murderers among all murderers. (Gay Science, p. 181)
Nietzsche replaces the Christian God with a nihilistic god. Dionysus was favored by the German Romantics because he "preserves the cultic excess with archaic forms of social solidarity." (PDM, 96). Nietzsche is not original in his treatment of Dionysus. The fascination with the Greek god harks back to early Nineteenth Century, with the likes of Schlegel, Hölderlin, Novalis, Schelling. The difference, Habermas points out, is that the Romantic Dionysus doesn't break with Western tradition. This mythology is a form of rejuvenation which seeks a Christian promise fulfilled with mythic Dionysian solidarity.4

And yet, the mature Nietzsche breaks with this Romantic Christian/Dionysian formula to embrace an openly aesthetic posture. For his discussion, Habermas cites from Nietzsche's On the Use and Abuse of History for Life.

We intend to mine this relevant text a bit more.   

moderns lost in the high seas of the present, looking yonder @ their uncertain future (Théodore Géricault, Raft of Medusa, 1819)

How Nietzsche's futurity subverts M-normativity

Nietzsche is a Futurist before Futurism.
It is appropriate now to understand that only the man who builds the future has a right to judge the past. (UAH, 26)
The future is not merely "there" like reserve of chronological time. The future is a projection, this is  why he's so influential for Existentialist theory: Dasein, or l'être depend of this futural projection.
Create in yourselves a picture to which the future is to correspond ... you have enough to plan and to invent when you imagine that future for yourselves. If you live your life in the history of great men, then you will learn from history the highest command: to ...  flee away from that paralyzing and prohibiting upbringing of the age. (Idem, 26)
Nietzsche's "history of great men" refers to the ancient pre-socratics. The past that could come back again unless one flies "away from that paralyzing and prohibiting upbringing of the age." One has to respect a postmodern who can speak with such modern panache.
When the historical sense reigns unchecked and drags with it all its consequences, it uproots the future, because it destroys illusions and takes from existing things the atmosphere in which they alone can live. (Idem, 26)
Nietzsche's futurity leaves M's trumpeted presentism behind time.
Nietzsche undertakes a conspicuous leveling. Modernity loses its singular status, it constitutes only a last epoch in the far reaching history of rationalization initiated by the dissolution of archaic life and the collapse of myth. (UAH, 35)
Interestingly, Habermas' list of Nietzsche's postmodern buddies in PDM extend forward into the future to 1980s. That's a hundred years of postmodern trans-fat clogging M's arteries! 4

Let's introduce Nietzsche as the first modern postmodern.

(Picture the M-theorist, standing at the door of a small room filled with a postmodern coterie, holding a placard that reads: Long live the present!)

To top if off comes Baudelaire's contradictory declaration: Modernity can happen before modernity!

The poet loves to mix up things. He has a right. For Baudelaire (a proto-Surrealist) time "is a greedy player."

"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!"5

Baudelaire's "time to get drunk" means dare to imagine! 

What conceptual or epochal warning can prevent a critic, disgusted with his present, to look forward to a better future? Is theory a prerequisite for human imagination?5

Let's double up now with this Nietzschean:  

Postmodernity is possible before any modernity!

The distraught M-theorist throws up his hands: "Stop, you're mixing everything up!"

But this is time! Time is plastic, it can be brought back and forth through memories. And memories are tools of superimposition and juxtaposition. As we learn from Freud our psyche is in the business of mixing up events.

Does one have to be modern —or postmodern— to think like this?
The glance into the past pushes them into the future, fires their spirit to take up life for a longer time yet, kindles the hope that justice may still come and that happiness may sit behind the mountain towards which they are walking. These historical people believe that the meaning of existence will come increasingly to light in the course of its process. Therefore they look backwards only to understand the present considering previous process and to learn to desire the future more keenly. (UAH, 5)
Nietzsche, the first modern/postmodern, has the freedom to go back and forth, shopping around for standards, evaluating past and future (even if as we know, it turns to be illusory).
Fill your souls with Plutarch, and dare to believe in yourselves when you have faith in his heroes. With a hundred people raised in such an unmodern way, that is, people who have become mature and familiar with the heroic, one could permanently silence the entire noisy pseudo-education of this age. (my italics, UAH, 5)
Let's welcome "unmodern." How near of farther away is that from "modern"?

To exasperate the M-theorist even more, Nietzsche —reluctantly— considers himself a modern.
For we modern people have nothing at all which comes from us.
It's time for a revision: Nietzsche is the first unmodern modern.

Next: Against hyper-objects.
1 Our discussion takes Habermas' PDM as its main source, but Habermas' position is akin to other high profiled M-theorists, such as Hans Blumenberg, Reinhart Koselleck, etc.  2 Induction is never certain, but M makes it look so, as if it rests on deductive grounds. The distinction brings us back to the difference between the "natural" and "social" sciences. We take it that both history and biology have to build a body of knowledge from explanations and predictions. 3 I'm thinking of Hegel's maxim: Der Weg des Geistes ist der Umweg. 4 This interpretation is challenged in a recent essay by Peter Sloterdijk. Nietzsche doesn't see his present as as Habermas wishes him to see it, a hundred years later.  Baudelaire's Paris Spleen. "The same evidence follows us in our second principle, of the liberty of the imagination to transpose and change its ideas." Hume's Treatise on Human Nature (III).

Monday, January 8, 2018

Deflating Modernity (Part 3): The hubris of self-normativity

Modernity gives birth to its own normativity (Joffra Bosschart, Kali, 1978) 

How is an a priori history possible? When the soothsayer causes and contrives the events that he proclaims in advance. Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age

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We open with a high-flown assertion:
Modernity no longer will borrow the criteria by which it takes orientation from the models supplied by another epoch: is has to create its normativity out of itself. Modernity sees itself cast back upon itself without any possibility of escape. (PDM, p.7)
What's important here is "out of itself." Imagine a vertical axis of epochal space vs. an horizontal axis of epochal constitution. From the vertical axis M gets no contact with the outside. From its horizontal axis, M creates itself ex nihilo. A true Messianic miracle! Hegel's dream was turned into law by the Hegelian Left (as programme for revolution) and by the Right (as Christian soteriology).

Today, M is a solid part of history. The lesson is that dreams come true. Yet, is it insane to posit the possibility that history cheated? Or better, could history not cheat and cover it with more cheating?

For now, self-normativity = M-normativity  

Norms are standards, measures (whether quantitative or qualitative). Norms are constantly negotiated as descriptions and re-descriptions of the world. They are up for comparison, which presupposes difference. Terms such as "good," "beautiful," "wrong," "unjust," "permissible, "inappropriate,"  don't, can't, exist in isolation. When it comes to M what are we comparing? An epoch is conscious of itself through a similar process of juxtaposition. In this respect, Hegel provides a persuasive argument in his Science of Logic about how a thing (whatever) constructs its ground.
Ground is the unity of identity and difference, the truth of what difference and identity have turned out to be –the reflection-into-self, which is equally a reflection-into-other, and vice-versa. It is essence put explicitly as a totality (§121).
The point is that M's ground already contains a reflection into-self vs. into-other.

((As the M-theorist seeks for further evidence, he only finds more incongruity))

In Chapter 1 of The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (PDM here) Habermas provides two examples of how self-normativity proceeds.

From Baudelaire (in The Painter of Modern Life)
By "modernity" I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and immutable…This transitory, fugitive element, whose metamorphoses are so rapid, must on no account be despised or dispensed with.
Habermas interprets the paragraph above as the "authentic work is radically bound to the moment of its emergence, precisely because it consumes itself in actuality." (PDM, p. 9).

How could Baudelaire have M-normativity in mind –when in the following paragraph he adds:
There was a form of modernity for every painter of the past; the majority of the fine portraits that remain to us from former times arc clothed in the dress of their own day. They are perfectly harmonious works because the dress, the hairstyle, and even the gesture, the expression and the smile (each age has its carriage, its expression and its smile) form a whole, full of vitality.
What Baudelaire is doing is negotiating an opening between epochal standards that M-normativity prohibits. For Baudelaire the "modern" is trans-historic. It applies to Baudelaire's present (circa 1863), as much as it applies to Greek painter Phidias circa 440 BC! The Baudelairean modern is trans-modern.

From Walter Benjamin (in On the Concept of History XVII):
A historical materialist approaches a historical subject only where he encounters it as a monad. In this structure he recognizes the sign of a Messianic cessation of happening, or, put differently, a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past. He takes cognizance of it in order to blast a specific era out of the homogeneous course of history—blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifework. As a result of this method the lifework is preserved in this work and at the same time canceled; in the lifework, the era; and in the era, the entire course of history. The nourishing fruit of what is historically understood contains time in its interior as a precious but tasteless seed.
This is Benjamin at his most epiphanic. The revolutionary encounters the subject as monad. Is this not a reference to Leibniz? Self-aware, indivisible, self-sufficient recollections of the absolute reflection of the outside? Benjamin wills his epoch out of history's course (i.e., the narratology of history)  through an explosive force (aufzusprengen) which reminds one of Nietzsche's "will to power" (Wille zu Macht). And Benjamin hopes that no systemic energy is lost in the process: Spent energy miraculously preserved -even against the course of time- contravening laws of entropy by perforce of Messianic cessation. The result is that of a congealed era in the form of a seed. One senses Benjamin metaphor-twisting aiming at a sort of Spinozean immanence: As everything is connected, the self/monad becomes the seed/epoch (an obscure poetic maneuver that would not satisfy a Frankfurt critic like Theodor Adorno). Remember, M-normativity is divorced from any connectivity.

Here's Habermas' opinion:
The consciousness of time expressed in Benjamin is not easy to classify. A singular mixture of surrealist experiences and motifs from Jewish mysticism enter unmistakably into his notion of now-time (jetztzeit) . 1
Benjamin's future may not be exactly what Habermas has in mind. In OCH, XIV, Benjamin declares:
History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now. 
What throws Habermas off is Benjamin's penchant for presentism, his now-time (jetztzeit) this all-absorbing now that contains everything there is. In XV we find a promising clue:
The consciousness of exploding (aufzusprengen) the continuum (Kontinuum) of history is peculiar to the revolutionary classes in the moment of their action. 
The exhortation calls for exploding the continuum of history. But this continuum cannot be a timeless blob (since history presupposes a beginning), nor a momentary cut (since any "now" one thinks of is already "outside" the continuum). In any case, the section moves back and forth from the "chronological" to the "oppositional." Benjamin, the M-theorist, wants to have it both ways.2

the M-theorist's insatiable gluttony (Georg Emanuel Opiz, Der Völler, 1804)

Habermas now aligns himself with M-theorist, Hans Blumenberg. In his monumental Legitimacy Of the Modern Age, Blumenberg suggests normative criteria for each epoch until a new vision of the world becomes necessary. A key concept is "self-assertion" (Selbstbehauptung), a central feature of the modern rational worldview. First, the transition from "ancient" to "medieval" is defined by the idea of "creation ex-nihilo." The preamble to the modern age is characterized by the nominalist God of Okham. The Enlightenment is the attempt to hide the historicity of Being (Blumenberg calls this period "false Modernity").

Each of these moments represent an epochal change (Gegenständigkeit, translated as "oppositionality") as opposed to (Inständigkeit or "extrapositionality"). Blumenberg presents two axes: "the world" and "human action in the world."

Gegenständigkeit is grounded in the Cartesian method and Husserl's Phenomenology where "world" and "action in the world" are within a continuum. Inständigkeit, on the other hand, is a rejection of the former, exemplified by Heidegger's anti-humanism, i.e., the rejection of reason, religion and tradition. Blumenberg proposes that the theological absolutism of the late Middle Ages prompted a radical break which resulted in an epochal self-assertion.

The founding of an epoch comes about only after a sense of crisis. What happens before needs to be surpassed. But with M this is out of the question. How does M surmounts the authority to invest itself in vacuum? According to Hegel, an epoch rises from the dissolution of the immediate, the pre-given form of social and cultural unity, the historic condition that he describes as diremption (Entzweiung). But it doesn't happen as a confrontation to the outside, but as self-anihilation, a sort of M pulling itself from its bootstraps.3

Habermas is more radical in his defense of self-normativity than Koselleck or Blumenberg.
Koselleck has characterized modern-time consciousness among other ways in terms of the increasing difference between "the sense of experience" and the "horizon of expectations": My thesis is that in modern times the difference between experience and expectation has increasingly expanded, more precisely that modernity is first understood as a new age from the time that expectations have distanced themselves evermore from all previous experience. (PDM, p. 12)
Could the M-theorist really explain why there is no "historic consciousness" before M?

To prove M-normativity Habermas needs a radical cut, but so far, he hasn't produced it.

Slowly we begin to find the cracks in the M-normativity frame.

Next: How the overlap of Modernity/Post-Modernity shatters M-normativity.

1 Perhaps Habermas is reading Baudelaire with too much of Benjamin's messianism in mind, though this is not the place to make that claim, which I leave the reader to explore in this interesting essay by Sonam Singh.According to Singh, Benjamin's methodology doesn't fully apprehend Baudelaire's fantastic rethoricity, as the former selectively sutures Baudelaire to accommodate his messianism.  
2 Adorno's resistance to Benjamin's essay comes from a different ideological place, but Benjamin's obscurity is part of the problem. Adorno writes: "Between myth and reconciliation, the poles of his philosophy, the subject evaporates. Before his Medusan glance, man turns into the stage on which an objective process unfolds. For this reason Benjamin’s philosophy is no less a source of terror than a promise of happiness." Some well-known scholars opine that this observation only speaks of Adorno's conceptual stiffness. See, Sonam Singh essay above. 3 Hegel still carries Schelling's notion of the Absolute, since it is through a version of intellectual intuition, rather than conceptual thought, that we can construct the Absolute in consciousness. There are two parts here: the "subjective" subject/object (intelligence or Geist) and "objective" subject-object (nature), both terms—subjectivity and objectivity, or freedom and nature—are both posited in their identity and suspended in their difference and viceversa. See McGrath and Carew, Rethinking German Idealism, Chapter 4.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Deflating Modernity (Part 2): The failure of Hegel's axiomatics

Hegelian axiomatics makes its case in the trial of history 

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After defining the "economic" side of M, Habermas proceeds to tackle M's superstructure. The preeminent figure of this post is G. F. Hegel:
Hegel was the first philosopher to develop a clear concept of modernity (p. 4). Hegel used the concept of modernity first of all in historical contexts, as an epochal concept: The new age is the modern age. (PDM p. 5)
What's Hegel's secret? He has the audacity to call his time "new" (circa 1807). That's it.

I- Hegel axiomatizes his present!

How do you prove that's sunny when it's in fact sunny? Just point to the sunny realm around you with your index finger. Facts don't need proof.

Hegel makes his epoch look as a historic necessity (with the help of good ol' metaphysics).

In this installment we show that both justifications are redundant. First, since any epoch is "new" in comparison with the previous epoch, Hegel's own epoch is  at best  trivially different than any previous epoch. Second, since history is basically and ultimately about real events, Hegel's hijacking of history by metaphysics to justify history's march to self-discovery is, from the start (admittedly brilliant) but ultimately redundant. As a paradigmatic German Romantic, Hegel presents his epoch as inevitable incarnation of the "will of the spirit" (Geist).

Two generations later, when Marx shakes off his Hegelian influences, he castigates Hegel and the Young Hegelians in The German Ideology with this caustic paragraph:
The Hegelian philosophy of history is the last consequence, reduced to its "finest expression," of all this German historiography, for which it is not a question of real, nor even of political, interests, but ... as a series of "thoughts" that devour one another and are finally swallowed up in "self-consciousness."
No one disputes Hegel's presentism and his inclination being generational (the so called Jena Circle).1 For Paul Redding this inclination harks back to the beginning of German Idealism:
Idealists from Leibniz to Hegel sought to accommodate and incorporate the modern life together with the distinctive role given to  individual subjectivity within it. This German Idealismus might be better described in terms of a increasing attempt to locate general phenomena with the modern subjective conception of consciousness. (p.4)
II- Hegel's historic argument 

Let's look at the Hegelian "new."

Imagine a moment, X0 which precedes a moment X1,
Necessarily, X0 ≠ X1,
We call X1 "new" and X0 "old,"

Xis "new," compared to X0, but it's also "old" compared to X2. And the same will happen for each Xi.

Θ There is nothing unique about a moment, epoch X1 other than being trivially "before" of "after" any Xi.

Would Hegel disagree?
It is surely not difficult to see that our time is a birth and transition to a new period. The Spirit has broken with what was hitherto the world of its existence and imagination and is about to submerge all this in the past. (PDM p. 6).
If Hegel rejects Θ then he needs more than just a "new" epoch. He needs this "new" epoch to last for ever! (more of this later).

Hegel now pulls a card under his sleeve: the "new" is not chronological.

III- Habermas defense of the new as "oppositional"

Habermas in PDM:
In his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel used these expressions to classify the German Christian world... the division still usual today (e.g, for the designation of chairs in history departments) into Modern Period, Middle Ages and Antiquity could take shape only after the expression "new" or "modern" age lost its chronological meaning and took the oppositional significance of an emphatically "new" age. (PDM p. 5)
Habermas borrows this idea of "oppositional" as opposed to "chronological" from German historian Reinhart Koselleck, who coined the term Sattelzeit to denote a conceptual transformation which takes place between 1750-1850. We cannot go deep into Koselleck's monumental theory of Begriffsgeschichte in his Futures Past On the Semantics of Historic Time.

(take a look at this essay by Jan Werner Müller as an intro).

Even as Koselleck builds his idea of "conceptual history" (Begriffsgeschichte) he brings back  chronological aspects —as he anchors these conceptual transformations. Koselleck's point is that the historical experience of time and its meanings during the 1750-1850 period shifts from "timeless" (before M) towards "forward looking-anticipatory" during M. (Coincidence of coincidences, Hegel belongs precisely to this epoch).

There is a problem with Koselleck idea of Sattelzeit, though. How could "new" be oppositional without being implicitly chronological? Put differently: How could one address "opposition" (Entgegensetzung) in Hegel, between concepts referring to historic events without implicitly acknowledging change? And how can one acknowledge change without the helping hand of chronological time?

Hegelian dialectics is about "moments." For example, in his famous definition of Being & Nothing resolving in Becoming in his Wissenschaft der Logik, Hegel uses the term Übergehen, traslated by Wallace as "passage" (in German Gehen implies the idea of motion).

Let's take a look at Koselleck's idea of "opposition":
From the concept of the one party follows the definition of the alien other ... This involves asymmetrically opposed concepts. The opposite is not equally antithetical. The linguistic usage of politics, like that of everyday life, is permanently based on this fundamental figure of asymmetric opposition. (FP p. 158)
Koselleck goes in detail over a number of binaries (Helenes vs. Barbarians, Christian vs. Heathens, Mensch & Unmensch vs. Übermensch & Untermensch, etc). At one point he seems to imply that these conceptual oppositions are independent of history:
The following reflections will not be concerned with historical process or the emergence and articulation of dualistic counter concepts, their change, and the history of their likely effects ...  the structure of argument within once historically extant, dualistic, linguistic figures will be examined for the way in which the given counterpositions were negated. (FP p. 158)
This conclusion is not unlike the structuralist preference of synchronic over diachronic. A few paragraphs later, Koselleck dithers to acknowledges that structure,
 ... implies the historical, and vice versa. In this way, the sources can be read in two ways at once: as the historical utterance of agencies, and as the linguistic articulation of specific semantic structures. (FP p. 181)
But this admission subverts Habermas' much needed M's oppositional side. The reason Habermas discounts the chronological (diachronic?) is that he wants M to be and not be in time. Not unlike Hegel, though for different reasons, Habermas still finds a return value in defending M's excess of presence.


Since M is still here, (though going through a detour) M's true project still has a future. The strategy is make M last as much a possible while keep deferring it, legitimizing it within the knowledge communities. Derrida has called this practice "Hauntology."
Because the new, the modern world is distinguished from the old by the fact that it opens itself to the future, the epochal new beginning is rendered constant with each moment that gives birth to the new. [...] Within the horizon of the modern age, the present enjoys a prominent position a contemporary history. (PDM p. 6)
Strange that Habermas makes this assertion about Hegel's epoch. Is his pivotal study Lectures on The Philosophy Of History Hegel doesn't talk much about the future. His main concern is the present:
Nothing in the past is lost for it, for the Idea is ever present; Spirit is immortal; with it there is no past, no future, but an essential now. This necessarily implies that the present form of Spirit comprehends within it all earlier steps. (LPH p. 96)
Or here:
In regard to Philosophy, on the other hand, we have to do with that which (strictly speaking) is neither past nor future, but with that which is, which has an eternal existence —with Reason; and this is quite sufficient to occupy us. (LPH p. 104)
IV- Hegel's metaphysical argument for History

We need to come back to Hegel's axiomatization of history. Hegel's metaphysical maneuver has three parts:

1. History is teleological (it exhibits a purpose), 2. History is a process (of progress), 3. History culminates with the Spirit's self-discovery of its own freedom. For the sake of brevity I'm presenting the core of these arguments:

1. teleology,
...and the whole process of History (as already observed), is directed to rendering this unconscious impulse a conscious one (LPH p. 39).
2. process,
Freedom has found the means of realizing its Ideal — its true existence. This is the ultimate result which the process of History is intended to accomplish. (LPH p. 127)
3. self-discovery, 
The destiny of the spiritual World, and — since this is the substantial World, while the physical remains subordinate to it, or, in the language of speculation, has no truth as against the spiritual —the final cause of the World at large, we allege to be the consciousness of its own freedom on the part of Spirit, and ipso facto, the reality of that freedom. (LPH p. 33)
None of these points have any anchor in reality whatsoever.

A candid question: What got Hegel in such a mess?

I'll present Hegel's metaphysical legerdemain in schematic form.

In developing his phenomenological argument, Hegel's project becomes a model of mounting contradictions. He betrays his phenomenological method of gradually allow metaphysics emerge from a careful analysis. Instead Hegel hijacks history for the sake of metaphysics. Here are the redundancies of Hegel's axiomatics:

1. Presentism: "Progress" redundantly points to Hegel's epoch.2
2. Eurocentrism: World history travels from East to West, ending with, obviously, Europe.
3. Christianocentrism: The Christian world is the world of completion (thereby the end of days is fully come).

M's doubtful endurance, its raison d'etre, has been exposed. M's clever buildup from both its "economic" and "oppositional" sides have been uncovered as a patchwork of ad hoc procedures. M presents plenty of abstractions with dubious particulars, conceptual invocations devoid of factual evidence and questionable inferences with poor premises. 

Next post: M's redundant normativity.

1 The Jena circle becomes the center of German Romanticism through its main publication: The Athenaeum. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy describe the circle aptly: "Nor is it simply a circle of friends ... or a "coterie" of intellectuals. It is, rather, a sort of "cell," marginal (if not altogether clandestine), like the core of an organization destined to develop into a "network" and serve as the model for a new style of life. In fact, and without any exaggeration, it is the first "avant-garde" group in history." (The Literary Absolute, p. 8). As Hegel had defined it, "progress" is not an indeterminate advance ad infinitum. "It has a definite aim, that is to say, spirit’s achievement of self-consciousness."

Deflating Modernity (Part 1) Looking at conditions of possibility

boooo: the lurking ghost of Modernity is watching

Modernity ... an accepted, codified convention.-- Octavio Paz  

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Modernity (from hereon) is a peculiar, unfathomable, entity.

When did M really start? Is it still enduring? Is it abstract, concrete? If abstract, what are its properties? If concrete, how is it bounded?

What I'd like to do here is explore M's conditions of possibility, particularly from within critical theory.

A respected theorist who has made a career writing about M is Jurgen Habermas. In the mid 1980s Habermas published a series of 12 lectures titled The Philosophical Discourse of ModernityBorrowing from Weber, Durkheim and Herbert Mead's theories Habermas delivers this definition:
The concept of modernization1 is a bundle of processes that are cumulative and mutually reinforcing: to the (a) formation of capital and the mobilization of resources, to the (b) development of forces of production and the increase in the productivity of labor, to the establishment of (c) centralized political power and the formation of national identities, to the proliferation of rights of political participation, (e) of urban forms of life and of formal schooling, to the secularization of norms and so on (added letters are mine). 
For Habermas, this "bundle of processes" (let's call it Brefers to something concrete, out there in the world.

The problem of causal explanation in the Human Sciences has been addressed by numerous theorists. In Explanation and Understanding Von Wright makes the point that hermeneutic explanation is not causal in the nomic sense of "a spark making a barrel of gunpowder explode." Instead we have a quasi-causal explanation, that is, parts of the "bundle of processes" are presented as a possible causes, part to whole, which may occur as series of probabilities, which amount to a narrative (Habermas doesn't acknowledge this method since his approach is hermeneutic). Historic analysis cannot be grasped using laws of nature and lawlike uniformities, which brings the methodological difference between Natural and Human Sciences. Whereas the natural sciences explain phenomena in terms of cause and effect the human sciences, tries to understand relations between part and whole.

Wilhelm Dilthey's contribution to Hermeneutics established how Erlebnis or "lived experience" necessarily refers to other structurally related experiences that ground it. But Dilthey was aware of the problem of circularity in his method (Hermeneutischer Zirkel) whereby one's understanding of "lived experience" is already determined by the one's prior understanding one's experience.

With this in mind, let's analyze Habermas' historic explanation. His definition takes this form:

Modernity = def A bundle of processes that are cumulative and mutually reinforcing: to the (a) formation of capital and the mobilization of resources to the (b) development of forces, etc...

The relation definiendum  definiens is a strong one. It means that the left hand side and the right hand side of "______ = def ______" are exchangeable. In our discussion B is a necessary and a sufficient condition for M.

I- Let's address M's sufficiency.

To show that B is not sufficient for M we would need to show that P can refer to moments other than M.

Θ  B is not a sufficient condition for M.

(a) Formation of capital

"Formation of capital" cannot refer exclusively to modern capital, if "capital" means wealth, whether physical assets or currency. It's a fact that the formation of capital is not unique to M.

(b) Development of forces of production

Is "development of forces of production" unique to M?

Marx uses forces of production to refer to the means of labor (physical such as machinery, land, etc) + labor power (a normalized category to describe the production of goods and services). Unless the category is redundant to describe its own present, it can refer to instances other than M.

(c) Centralized political power

Centralized political power is not a phenomenon unique to M. Does not Menes, the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh credited by classical tradition with having united Upper and Lower Egypt (and founder of the first dynasty) counts as an example of (c)? I don't see why not.

(d) Formation of national identities

With (d) we have a looping problem. The received idea (in Modern History) is that "nation" is already a modern development. Can we find an example of "nation" before M? Professor Anthony D. Smith thinks so. 2

(e) Urban forms of life and of formal schooling... secularization of norms and so on.

Let's take the former: Urban forms of life are not necessarily modern. 

The latter: Schooling harks back to the Hellenistic Period.

When one causally explains, one must be able to refute possible counterfactuals

Coming back to Θ above: B is not a sufficient condition for M.


II- Let's address M's necessity.

If B a necessary condition for M, M cannot exist without B. See that all we need is to find is one instance where M happens without B. Let's imagine a different bundle of processes B' which brings forth M. If this is possible then,

Ω  B is not a necessary condition for M.

The Habermasian is visibly annoyed. She will not conceive of Ω.

But she could: There is B' (a different set of processes than the one Habermas mentions) which brings about M. That proves that M can exist without B.  B' is possible. B' being possible means that, counterfactually, B is not a necessary condition to bring forth M.

The Habermasian is begging the question on her initial point: "M cannot exist without B" because that's the way it is.

Let's ask a different question: Is true?

The Habermasian should accept that B doesn't have to be true to imply M. But actually any "bundle of processes" whether true or false, unproblematically implies M

Is the Habermasian still smiling?

Imagine B to be a discrete set of phenomena and M a cluster event. The theorist now tries to connect and M, but he merely presents B as causing M without a detailed analysis of such purported connection. The fallacy lies in assuming that a "bundle of processes" described as "cummulative and mutually reinforcing" automatically renders M.     

Here are three inferential errors: 

1- the ad hoc reduction of to B, without a serious counterfactual analysis,3 2- assuming that B explains M and 3- assuming that B causes M. 4 

Next post: Hegel's axiomatics and the metaphysical grounding of M.

1 For Habermas M and "modernization" are isomorphic to each other, with "modernization" becoming the economic side of the coin. From Habermas' neo-Marxist perspective, M plays the superstructure part of the two.  2 In his well-known Antiquity of Nations Professor Anthony Smith critiques the received modern idea of nation as a modern development: "A nation is a type of community that is based on the idea that people perceive a given territory as belonging to them, rightly or wrongly." The second characteristic is that it's a community of myth, memory, and symbol. "This is what the members of a nation share in common, to a greater or lesser degree: myths, memories, symbols, traditions, which differ from those of other nations." Thirdly, the members of those nations have forged a distinctive public culture, "which includes rituals and ceremonies and public codes of conduct; a political culture of symbols, flags, anthems, stamps, coins, and so on, that mark out this nation from another nation." Finally, members tend to observe common customs and laws. To establish definite causation we need to counterfactualize particulars in order to distinguish whether a given event does not occur at all from ones at which it occurs but is somewhat unlike (the way it actually was). Is not Habermas begging the whole question of M?

Friday, December 8, 2017

the circularity of FOMO

I learn that "FOMO" means "fear of missing out." (For many this is the cause of the bitcoin frenzy).

How do you explain FOMO?

According to Marco Novarese & Mario Cedrini's paper The Challenge of Fear to Economics:
... fear (in economics) may be defined as a feeling of anxiety for a specific negative or dangerous possible event, but it may be also related to a sense of discomfort produced by something we do not know, something we do not understand, something we are unable to categorize. To some extent, this dichotomy resembles the distinction between risk and uncertainty...
lack of knowledge, umm.

Here is the problem: If classical probability was intended to manage the fear of a seemingly uncertain world, the concept of risk has only grown as reaction to scarcity of knowledge in the globally- warmed world of the Anthropocene. In the meantime, risk has given economy the possibility to build elegant formal models, with its utility maximizer-agent in standard economic theory turning risk -again- into an illusion of predictability.

So why FOMO?

* See The Challenge of Fear to Economics.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Why is a DNA molecule more worthy than a molecule of phosphorus?

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I'm almost done with Levi R. Bryant Democracy of objects. Are wholes better than parts? Is a RNA molecule in the same bill of rights as Bucksminsterfullerene (C60)?  Aristotle, a hero for Bryant (and this writer) would definitely vote against democracy in favor of an aristocracy of objects.

In this paragraph (DO, p. 52), Bryant addresses a correlationist1 objection to his argument.
A second line of argument holds that it is impossible to intelligently think a world without men because, in the very act of thinking such a world, we are picturing ourselves present to this world. 
What's the big deal? In physics there is a world without humans. Take the Lagrange/d'Alembert formula:

Σ(Fi − miai) ⋅δri= 0

Each letter here symbolizes what Bryant, following philosopher of science Roy Bhaskar calls "intransitive objects".

F is the total force,
mi is the mass, (Locke, a correlationist in Bryant's book, would agree that "mass" is independent of correlations, i.e., a "primary quality" independent-of-sense-experience).
ai is the acceleration, 
δri is the displacement of the particle,

Particles are part of a bigger system, i.e., the universe. From his entrance in the Encyclopedie:
It is undeniable that all the bodies of which this universe is made up form a single system, whose parts are interdependent and whose interrelations derive from the harmony of the whole.2
D'Alembert would agree with Bhaskar's idea of "open systems," as long as by "open" we understand not observed yet.
(...) the universe is only a vast ocean on whose surface we perceive a few more or less large islands whose connexion with the continent is hidden from us.3
If there is more science to be discovered, there is more to know of science, that is, more future experiments to be performed, more theories to be proposed, more relations between theories (for example, evolutionism now vs. evolutionism in 1900s).

This is not what Bryant necessarily has in mind. By "open" he means "... those where the powers of objects are either not acting or are disguised or hidden by virtue of the intervention of other causes." (DO, p. 48).

I have a problem with this characterization. Let's take it bit by bit:

"powers of objects are either not acting." A power has to always act. Power is acting. A non-acting power is acting (think of dark matter). By presenting the object as not acting, we liberate the object from the constraint of possible (thought?)
The thesis here is that every picture of the world includes ourselves in the picture. However Quentin Mellissoux has convincingly argued such a line of argument leads to a conclusion that the thought of our own death is unintelligible or that we are necessarily immortal.  For if it is true that we cannot think the world without thinking our presence to the world, then it follows that even the thought of our own death requires the presence of our thinking, thereby undermining the possibility of dying.
Wait. Thinking a world without me in it is logically & causally possible. For instance, a sunset in the late Cambrian era seeing from Gondwana. True, it's my thought, but my thought refers to a fact (regardless of our conceptual scheme to refer to it).

Take thinking my after-death, which is precisely Decartes' move in his sixth meditation. Descartes would laugh at the idea that from the fact that the thought of our death requires the presence of our thinking, thinking it undermines the possibility of dying:   
(...) [T]he difference between the body of a living man and that of a dead man is just like the difference between, on the one hand, a machine or other automaton (that is, a self-moving machine) when it is wound-up... and, on the other hand, the same watch or machine when it is broken.4
The motions of a particle or of a rigid body may be either "free" or "constrained"; that is, it may be at liberty to move in any manner in obedience to the applied forces or torques, or there may be present material barriers which limit its linear motion to a certain path or surface, or its rotation to a certain axis. this is the world of physics, a sort of non-correlationist world.

Since anything I will ever experience is a correlation, how can we get to the objects of science if not by observation? Who says that my eye observing (nervous bits of data) and my mental states (neural macroactivity) are not in a sense object-independent?

coming back to DNA and politics:

a DNA molecule contains phosphorus as part of its skeleton,
a DNA molecule is functionally more complex than phosphorus taken as a part,
DNA is politically more worthy than P15.

My proposition makes sense both from a human-centered and non-human-centered point of view.5 DNA is structurally more complex than phosphorous. Is a planet on the same political footing as cosmic dust? A neuron at a par with a mind?

I'm in favor of a subtle meritocracy of objects.

1  The idea according to which we only have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.   2 Jean d'Alembert, Ronald Grimsley, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1963 (p. 223).  3  idem, (p. 224).  4  R. S. Woolhous, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics p. 159. This is my tentative picture: 1- there is a human-independent world-picture, presented by the natural sciences, which shows explanatory power and make relevant predictions. 2- Human ontologies remain educated constructions.  3- To be accessed, pre-history needs to be thought, which makes "correlationism" inescapable. The problem remains what to do with that

Monday, October 2, 2017

Is this sculpture "sexually explicit"?

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Which is The Louvre's reason behind their withdrawal of "Domestikator," an installation by Atelier Van Lieshout (The  New York Times article here).

I provisionally borrow the following definition from the Washington Sate Legislature (any legislature would do),
"Sexually explicit material" as that term is used in this section means any pictorial material displaying direct physical stimulation of unclothed genitals.
On that beat,

"sexually explicit"?

The problem with the above account (and The Louvre's assumption) is the explicitness of "explicit."

Here's help:

Explicit: Clearly expressed, leaving nothing implied. 

"Explicit" presented as the absence of implicitness. Thus,

Implicit: Implied or understood though not directly expressed.

If the message leaves "something" implied (i.e., unsaid, unstated or indirectly expressed), then, it is not explicit.

is this photo "sexually explicit"?

Clouds do imply things, for instance, air, frozen crystals, the earth's atmosphere, etc, which are indirectly expressed by this picture.

Can one not make a similar argument in favor of "Domestikator" above? 

Which makes The Louvre's argument seem, how to put it, "cloudy"? 

Monday, September 25, 2017

a new art category: bullshit art

This sculpture by Darren Bader, owned by the New York-based designer Andrew Ong. The work is "‘activated" by putting guacamole into the sound hole of a French horn. (via NYTimes)

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in an effort to understand the ever changing context of contemporary art, we suggest a gamut of equally possible aesthetic options.

so, here is a new art category: man-made as they say marketable, sale-able, buy-able, highly collect-able. this is the first obvious tier. in addition, this form exhibits secondary distinct notes:

*high resistance to flow,
*thickness of purpose,
*a syrupy sentimentality (to exceed the already twitted),
*superfluously redundant,
*artlessly derivative,

we call it bullshit art.º

tautological and succinct in its emptiness, bullshit art is almost axiomatic,

you just know it when you see it. 

º the "bullshit" prefix is not derogatory, but rather descriptive (since the broader the evaluation the better the norm). the category summarizes a trend of very bad art and should be -unapologetically- used.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Rancière: ¿existe un discurso estético privilegiado en el régimen del arte?

Jim Drain AIDS-a-delic (2005)
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Aprovecho la obra de Jim Drain (arriba) para discutir el discurso de Jacques Rancière en reciente libro Malaise dans l'esthétique (2004), traducido al inglés como Aesthetics and its Discontents(2009).

Comencemos con que para Rancière el arte y la política no están separados. El arte es práctica interdisciplinaria, ya que el artista no es un ente aislado de su contexto político/social (por ejemplo, de ahí se explica la revolución estética de fines del siglo XIX llamada esteticismo, con figuras como Mallarmé, Baudelaire, el Arts and Crafts Movement, etc).

Rancière distingue entre "política" (y "policía").

"Policía" es ese sistema de organización que establece leyes que atañen lo sensible (entiéndase por ello ese campo de la experiencia en general). La función de "la policía" es distribuir, separar...

Comisión Nacional de Alfabetización, Cuba, (1961)

en este caso a la sociedad: en grupos, posiciones sociales y/o funciones. La función de la política es interrumpir la distribución de "la policía" (digamos esos miembros que no son parte de las coordenadas de la percepción de dicha sociedad). Escribe Ranciere:
La comunidad política es en efecto una estructuralmente dividida, no ya entre distintos grupos y opiniones, sino dividida en relación ella misma. El todo de la “masa” política no es nunca igual a la suma de sus partes, sino como una simbolización suplementaria.*
La política tiene ese efecto estabilizador homogenizante, digamos las divisiones sociales bajo una identidad es decir, el ciudadano, la nación. El conflicto por el poder político es atenuado por medio de actividades sociales y económicas de trabajo y ocio. Rancière argumenta que siempre hay una "reducción" de lo social por lo político (siempre que la unidad nacional se utilize para protegerse de los conflictos de división social). Por otra parte, la reducción de lo político a lo social ocurre cada vez que la promesa de desarrollo económico o de progreso se ofrece como una solución al conflicto político. 

Mi punto: Al final, la política de Rancière queda casi congelada, estática. 

 Wade Guyton, Action Sculpture, (2006)

Ahora bien, ¿qué es lo estético para Rancière? "Una forma de pensamiento en que se problematiza la naturaleza del arte". 1 Ocurre cuando se desglosa un cierto "régimen". ¿Qué es un régimen? "... la relación específica entre prácticas, formas y modos inteligibles [del arte], que nos permiten identificar ciertos productos específicos como pertenecientes -o no- a eso que llamamos arte". 2

Eduardo Marín, Mearte, (2006?)

La revolución estética que comenzara a fines del siglo XIX y se extiende hasta más allá de la segunda mitad del siglo XX inauguraría un período de "desorden" de lo estético si se entiende como una forma histórica que responde a los retos que este trastorno plantea. En el siglo XX, pensemos en la escultura que abandona la solidez en favor del volumen, la pintura que deja la representación en favor de lo abstracto, la irrupción de la fotografía como híbrido entre tecnología y arte, en la música el fenómeno del atonalismo, etc.

Gabo, Linear Variation No. 1, (1943).

"La estética" por tanto deviene en pensamiento de este nuevo (des)orden. Entonces la jerarquía antigua de los sujetos de estudio se vuelve borrosa. Por ejemplo, en el caso de la separación entre el régimen clásico (siglo XVIII) y el romántico (siglo XIX), la obra de arte ya no indica el prestigio de los mecenas, sino que se relacionan con el "genio" de los pueblos. 3

Para Rancière, la estética surge con el reconocimiento de que no existen reglas "preexistentes" que puedan distinguir rigurosamente la presentación de los objetos o situaciones dentro del contexto del arte (este cambio entre régimen y régimen nos recuerda a Thomas Kuhn y su Estructura de las revoluciones científicas).

 Ana Mendieta, Sin título, (1972)

El trabajo del especialista no es inventar nuevas formas de relación, sino hacerlas inteligibles: investigar qué ha desaparecido, qué da lugar a lo próximo; por ejemplo, la distincion que aparece entre "naturaleza humana" y "orden social natural" acompañando la explosión de nuevas formas de experimentación y creatividad desde fines del siglo XIX. El autor se ha referido a esto como la "democratización del arte".

 Auguste Rodin, Las puertas del infierno, (1884-6)

La identificación estética de las artes no es simplemente una manera de explorar lo ya pasado lo que Rancière llama "régimen de normatividad" sino también de lo que vendrá. El pensador toma el famoso tratado de Las Cartas estéticas sobre la educación del hombre  de Friedrich Schiller (donde el poeta introduce la idea del Spieltrieb), síntesis pre-hegeliana entre dos momentos: Formtrieb (juego de la forma) y Sinnestrieb (juego sensual), que para él significan eso que llamamos "lo bello". El Spieltrieb es una especie de fuerza liberadora que tanto Schiller como Rancière ven como la potencialidad de la educación etética,  
... proceso que representa una promesa para la comunidad; ya no es tan solo arte lo que habita este espacio, sino una forma en la cual no hay separación entre ambos estados de experiencia [forma y contenido]. Es un proceso que transforma la soledad de la apariencia en realidad vivida, cambiando la pasividad estética en la acción de la comunidad viviente (AP, p. 36).
Partiendo de esa premisa, puede comprenderse el realismo socialista como una manifestación de este principio llevado al extremo.

Mikhail Nesterov, Retrato de Ivan Shadr (1934) 

En el contexto de la política del arte soviético durante los años 30, la obra de Nesterov (arriba) compite y desplaza la obra que mostramos abajo.

  Kasimir Malevich, Suprematismo, autorretrato (1916)

Preguntas a Ranciére

Esto es algo que a mi juicio Rancière no ha explorado lo suficiente, ¿existe acaso un discurso estético privilegiado? Si es así ¿en virtud de qué? ¿Qué ocurre cuando aparecen discursos paralelos que se delegitiman unos a otros, como es el caso de el llamado arte "degenerado" (en la Alemania nazi) o "diversionista" (en el bloque soviético o en China)?

Rancière acaso diría que aunque el arte siempre mantiene una estrecha relación con "la vida", el arte hoy por hoy es autónomo. Dicha autonomía del arte es otra manera de nombrar algo básico: la heteronomía del arte. Schiller ilustra cómo la experiencia estética es siempre heterogenea. El arte crea divisiones y destruye jerarquías ontológicas entre categorías.5

Ahora ¿es dicha propensidad del arte intrínseca? Estimo que Rancière diría que no, puesto que la propia idea de régimen indica que el arte no siempre ha sido autótomo. Entonces la cuestión es, ¿hay vuelta atrás? ¿Puede el arte perder su autonomía?

Desde el punto de vista de Rancière, esta clase de experiencia (en Schiller) es parte de una relación estructural que gobierna la sociedad humana. Este mensaje de Schiller funciona hoy por hoy de una manera post-utópica, en que rompe con el estereotipo de la división del trabajo entre explotador y explotado, o en el arte propiamente dicho, entre "artista" y "público". Lo estético para Rancière viene siendo un espacio de comunidad práctico/conceptual.6

Tonico Lemus Auad, Retrato, 2003  

A la estética le toca analizar la diferencia entre lo que es arte y lo que no es arte. Por ejemplo, ¿es Fat Chair (1964) arte? Olvidemos por un momento que la pieza es conocida y que su autor es Beuys. ¿Existe un "régimen" actual en el que Fat Chair no sea considerada arte? La respuesta es afirmativa. Rancière acaso diría que en tal régimen no se consideraría el arte como una esfera autónoma, sino subordinada a "la vida" (por traer a Schiller de nuevo).

Joseph Beuys, Fat Chair, (1964)

Debido a este estado de heterogeneidad, la estética debe evitar caer en los extremos. ¿Pero cómo ilustrar esta tensión?

Insistir demasiado en la autonomía sería excluyente de la vida (un ejemplo sería el arte de Beardsley  a fines del siglo XIX en Inglaterra). Aunque Rancière no diría que este dibujo (desechado en la versión final de las ilustraciones para Lysystrata) no es arte, sin duda no hubiese sido considerado arte para el público victoriano de la época.

The Lacedaimonian Ambassadors, (circa. 1896)

Por otra parte, denegar las diferencias propias del arte convertiría la experiencia del arte en mera "vida". Este es el peligro que Bataille hallaba en el espectáculo totalitario facista, que se aviene tanto a la estética futurista.

 Desfile de Nuremberg, 1933 (en Olympia de Riefenstahl)

 Iofan, pabellón de la URSS, (Expo de Paris, 1937)

¿Le toca a lo estético mantenerse justo al borde? Este aparente (des)orden propio de lo estético no significa caos (el autor se aleja del discurso normativo postmodernista relativista). Y si bien Merda d'artista de Manzoni es arte, ¿qué tipo de arte?

 Piero Manzoni, Merda d'artista, (1961)

Lo que nos lleva directamente a la pregunta sobre la relación entre el arte y la filosofía. Comentando la diferencia entre abstracción y convencionalismo en el arte, Rancière nos recuerda que el paradigma  anti-mimético de la pintura no puede entenderse simplemente como un "destierro" de las imágenes, o de la representación o el redescubrimiento de una esencia perdida entiéndase esto cargado del término tal como es usado por Platón en el capítulo X de La República.

 Sudarshan Shetty, Six Drops, (2009)

En el caso de la pintura moderna, por ejemplo, se trata de una afirmación de ser concebida y practicada como superficie plana, bidimensional, cuya forma deviene en su propio contenido (su materialidad). Rancière escribe: "Se trata de una nueva forma de pintar que se ofrece a los ojos entrenados que pueden verla de manera diferente". Es decir, se requiere a un cambio que es percibido por una nueva mirada. Ambos, obra y mirada, se encuentran felizmente en esa complicidad o "régimen".

 Barnett Newman, Ornament 1, (1948)

Sin embargo, el nuevo régimen estético no rompe completamente el vínculo entre pintura y discurso. Es decir, siempre hay una relación de oposición dada en este caso por la crítica sobre cuál es el lugar propio de cierto arte. Por ello Rancière expresa que en lo sucesivo, "el poder de las palabras ya no es el modelo que la representación pictórica ha de tener como norma" (estado que es posible en tanto no se produzca un próximo régimen).

De ahí que no sea nada raro para nosotros inscribir el trabajo de Lissitzky en un régimen particular que tiene lugar en la URSS durante los primeros años de la revolución y que llamamos Constructivismo.

El Lissitzky, Proun (circa 1920)

Rancière estima que la pintura necesita una nueva forma de visibilidad que se logra a través de una reinterpretación del pasado de ella misma. La teoría viene a jugar un papel importante en el régimen de la estética, pues la teoría influencia la "forma de producción" (mientras que esta forma de producción tiene también sus momentos teóricos). Ambos son modos de hacer, y como tales operan unos sobre los otros. El trabajo de una estética crítica no debe separar estos esfuerzos en campos distintos de especialización, sino redoblar la fuerza de cada uno a través de su combinación en prácticas discursivas.

* Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, (Polity Press, 2009), p. 115. A este respecto, apunta Rancière: "En la clásica definición hay varios grupos opuestos: los incorporados en el estado y la constitución, los que son ignorados por las leyes, y esos que reclaman en el nombre del derecho de otro que aún no ha sido inscrito en los hechos". Es decir, aunque "la policía" pueda verse como un elemento negativo, en realidad ambos, policía y política no pueden existir el uno sin el otro. Se trata de una asimetría estructural básica y a la vez necesaria entre ambos.

1Del ensayo "Aesthetics as Politics", en Aesthetics and Its Discontents, p. 24. 2 Idem. p. 29. Rancière trae el ejemplo del famoso texto de 1797, escrito entre Hegel, Schelling y Hölderlin, titulado Das alteste Systemprogramm des Deutschen Idealismus. 4 Thomas Kuhn usa el término "paradigma" para referirse a cada momento específico que trae una nueva manera de "ver" las cosas. Tomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago University Press, 1962). La autonomía del arte viene precisamente con el tercer régimen (el de la modernidad expresado por el discurso racionalista del siglo XIX), que requiere un sujeto racional "desinteresado". Este régimen estético abre la posibilidad de que se descubra "lo bello" en cualquier parte y lugar, causando una especie de democracia estética. En aparte, debe apuntarse la similitud entrte la idea de "régimen" y el epistémè de Foucault en su Las palabras de las cosas, aunque Foucault se refiere a formaciones discursivas, es posible leer a Rancière con cierta inflexión foucaultiana.  Sería interesante, en un post futuro, abordar la discusión que existe entre Rancière y Alain Badiou a este respecto. 6 En mi interpretación de Rancière podría verse el arte (de una manera vertical) como una disciplina autótoma y a la vez (de modo horizontal) como interdisciplina.