Friday, November 30, 2012

Bryant Watch: A NEW Levi, a NEW Theory, I Say Piffle!

With a first draft due in January, Bryant’s just posted an update on his onto-cartography project.

He tells us this is going to be “a very different conceptual universe than the one found [in Democracy of Objects] (though building on that universe).” This is, of course, one of his characteristic rhetorical gestures, one he generally deploys with respect to Marxism, Lacan, critique, semiotics, the kitchen sink, and all the rest. He’s an all-inclusive theorist, always advancing, but never leaving anything behind. Why, he’s so all-inclusive he even includes his own past work.

Can’t beat that with a stick!

Then he tells us how his mind works—and, BTW, just what other contemporary philosopher is so generous as to give us a glimpse into the workings of his mind? “I draw things together that are disparate, working by a method of ‘pastiche’ and ‘collage’, because this is how I think and also because I believe that this is how being itself unfolds.” So, he’s got a mind like Being, which means that whatever comes out of it must be true because it’s from Being Itself.

Then comes the biggie:
Second, there is an ontological point being made here. Following on Harman’s point that all objects are withdrawn from one another such that every object “distorts” and “caricatures” other objects, it follows that every theoretical articulation– itself a machine or object –caricatures beings. As Harman argues in Guerrilla Metaphysics, the best we can do is allude to objects. This needs to be reflected in the style of theory. Theory must perpetually change its style, it’s mode of articulation, to underline the point that no theory– as is the case with all thought, discourse, perception, and relations between objects –ever manages to represent being. Shifts in styles and vocabulary mark the withdrawn nature of objects or machines and perpetually remind us that machines are “operationally closed and selectively open” to other objects.
So after reminding us that he moves forward by including everything from the past, he informs us, that, nonetheless, he’s always changing because that’s how Being is. Always withdrawing, can’t keep up.


As far as I can tell, this pretty much insulates him from criticism. If someone should happen to nail him on this or that point he can simply say: “Being’s changed, I don’t believe that anymore” and run away. Philosophy as hit-and-run. Very Heraclitean.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!

But if you want to play THAT game, Levi, you gotta’ have grace. You up to it? I think not.

And to show us he really means it:
So what will you find here? Lots of talk about machines, different types of mappings, entropy, events, ecology, and above all a much more enriched discussion of signs or semiotic machines with what I call corporeal machines. In this way I’m able to retain much Marxist theory, Frankfurt school theory, semiotic, and post-structuralist thought, without reducing corporeal bodies or machines to how they’re signified by expressive machines.
Not so long ago it was INcorporeal machines the held the key to signs and symbols. But it looks like Being’s changed its Heraclitean mind and Bryant’s just trying to keep up.

Go with the flow!

Now, between you me and the fencepost over there I think Bryant just made a mistake and meant to type “incorporeal.” After all the difference between “incorporeal” and “corporeal” is only two letters, we all make such mistakes, and this one saves him two keystrokes. When you’ve got an impending deadline breathing down your neck, every keystroke counts.

But then again, who knows? maybe he really did mean incorporeal. Maybe those old incorporeal machines have been renamed to expressive machines. But why does he talk of “corporeal bodies”? Isn’t that redundant? Isn’t “corpus” Latin for “body”?

Who knows.

Being’s a Trickster, and its ways are vast and various. But Trickster’s no fool. Bryant, alas, seems determined to become one. But perhaps he’s just embraced the via negativa. Wherever Bryant is, Being is not. We’ll see.

No comments:

Post a Comment