Thursday, January 5, 2012

Demythologizing "the mean green meme" meme

More from the OOO thread:

I found this enlightening, from Kennilingam speaking through his character Lesa Powell in endnotes to Boomeritis, number 12:

“For the Heideggerian line of totalizing critique--which found its most noticeable postmodern champion in Derrida--modernity was the culmination of the withdrawal of Being (mystery and difference). Modernity murdered Being and Mystery under 3 major repressions: one, the subject of consciousness knows only what is present as an idea or representation, which leads to the notion that this subject can have total or absolute knowledge of the world as fully intelligible, without residing mystery (the Hegelian system especially claims such, which is one of the great problems of having Reason attempt to carry Being)--and thus it actually represses the networks of difference, mystery, and otherness (this is Derrida's critique of presence, a critique which maintains that 'nothing is ever simply present,' since vast networks of nonpresent realities help to constitute the subject. Because of the sliding chains of linguistic signifiers and the deferral of meaning, nothing is ever simply present: therefore metaphysics, which claims to know as present various realities, is a concealing and hiding of Being and Mystery and Difference). Two, this subject is claimed to be autonomous will, and thus it actually ignores and represses all those aspects of Being that cannot be fitted into its practical mastery (Hegel again attempts to make the absolute Subject a union of will and rational intelligibility). But will is just 'the forgetting of Being,' the denial of diff√©rance (difference), the eclipse of the Other. Three, power itself becomes its own goal, and instrumental rationality seeks to control and dominate all that is Other.”

But then immediately following he goes awry, claiming that this legitimate critique goes too far into a radical and totalizing relativism that doesn't allow for “any sort of relative autonomy, truth, rationality, will, or subjectivity at all,” leading inevitably to the mean green meme and boomeritis. I have provided voluminous evidence to the contrary on this latter charge throughout this forum and firmly think it is a phantom of his own creation. But he at least recognizes the critique as valid, sans his projected nonsense thereafter.

He goes on to describe what an integral or constructive postmodernism will do, and this is exactly what the likes of Derrida did. And as we can see, how Harman is using Heidegger via his own integrated methodological pluralism.

“Any truly second-tier or integral philosophy--any truly constructive postmodernism--must do at least three things vis-√†-vis the death of the subject. One, it must indeed acknowledge that the individual self is set in vast networks of contexts, backgrounds, meanings, forces, and intersubjective relationships--some of which are conscious, many of which are unconscious--and all of these limit the so-called autonomy of the self. Two, it must specify as best it can the nature of these vast networks, indicating where possible how each is to be fruitfully explored and verified. And three, it must explain the relative autonomy that will replace absolute autonomy, because the situated self is still an agency-in-communion and not merely a network of communions. (That is, to say that the self is always embedded in relationships, to say that agency is always 'agency-in-communion,' to say that being is always 'being-in-the-world'--in short, to say that the self is situated in endless contexts--is not to say there is no agency at all, no individuality at all, no responsible self at all. A situated autonomy is still responsible, within its confinement, for those choices over which it has some control--the self is still a relatively autonomous and responsible agency set in its communions.)”

How he can be so brilliant one moment and so utterly insane the next is a fascinating study in the human personality.

A primary text in endnote 12 is "French philosophy in the 60s" by Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, noted for their anti-pomo, pro-Habermasian stances. Michael Zimmerman here calls them "representatives of French neo-liberalism," aka global capitalism. Hence the many neo-liberal enactments we see in kennilingus. As one response to Ferry and Renault's (and hence kennilingus) distorted anti-pomotion, see this section in Poststructuralism, Marxism and Neoliberalism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

Zimmerman's article about Caputo and Heidegger he says that Heidegger's Ereignis is akin to Derrida's differance, both a "self-concealing, groundless ground" (4). Also that Derrida translates this into ethico-political use, something absent from Ferry and Renault's analysis. However a case is made that Heidegger missed this boat, more in line with F&R. Also of interest is how Heidegger had a more "meditational" focus which led to his more hierarchical and undemocratic views, contra Derrida's ethico-politics. Which is not to say that meditation itself is at fault, just that this focus combined with Heidegger's cultural lifeworld (Nazi Germany) led to this. The analysis goes much deeper so check it out.

From Caputo, Demythologizing Heidegger (IUP, 1993):

"A structurally necessary which the open space itself...withdraws from view in order that what is granted...may come into presence.... We get rid of dominating historical mountain peaks, not for a flat plain but for a populous range of competing peaks....primordial beginnings [are] replaced by a more radical 'repetition' conceived as the springing up of the different, the emergence of diversity, without hierarchical privilege. Heidegger has isolated the structural withdrawal of the opening...which makes possible the presence of the present...[as] ontologically 'primary'...the most elusive of all in the order of 'thinking' because of its very withdrawal" (31).

Zimmerman misses that this is not a relativism that makes everything equal just because it doesn't accept a hierarchical One at the Top. It is not a "flat plain" but a pluralism of multiple and competing mountain peaks. And it is not anti-spirituality, just not an ontotheological spirituality of presence, opting for an open and withdrawn ontological primacy that makes presence possible.

I'm also reminded of Sam Harris' competing mountain peaks from a video in this post. He, like Caputo, isn't denying a "higher level," just that it has plural expressions. Which also calls into question those claiming a one, true higher level that subsumes all others in its wake, generally due to not recognizing the withdrawn nature of such because of its metaphysics of presence. Our OOO friends are on the same page with this.

Also see Harris' now classic two part essay “Rescuing the green meme from boomeritis,” part 1 and 2. And of course Cowen's MGM analysis here and his partner Todorovic's paper here.

1 comment:

  1. In the second quoted Wilber paragraph he lays out how a constructive postmodernism would deal with the subject given the metaphysics of presence, claiming deconstruction (aka Derrida) does not and thus is guilty of relativism. But that constructive description is exactly what Derrida does, contra Wilber's source (French Philosophy in the 60s). The source I cited states unequivocally:

    "The anti-Nietzschean polemical attack on the poststructuralist critique of the subject is misplaced, for Derrida never 'liquidated' the subject but rather rehabilitated it, decentered it, and repositioned it, in all its historco-cultural complexity" (63). On the same page, in an interview with Jean-Luc Nancy, Derrida spoke of "a return to the subject, a return of the subject [...] a return to a certain ethical subject."


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