Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rhetoric about rhetoric

In the IPS OOO thread Dial has again challenged what he perceives as a lack of embodiment in Wilber and Bryant. The dialogue follows:

Dial: Is how does one express the relationship between mind-body-universals - or class thereof - when the very currency of the world is immanence - aka embodiment, aka assemblages. To my mind it's really not possible by means other than realized embodied expression. That is to say, it can't be propositional but must be expressive, rhetorical, performative, resonant.

Integral affirms this when it says the only spirit is embodied spirit. OOO does the same when it dismisses ontotheological conceptions that have no basis in actual experience. Rather it views reality as a flat ontology of material and  immaterial objects impacting upon each other.

The logical trajectory of thought that evolves from these suppositions is toward an embodied thought. This would include, but cannot be restricted to, the analytical laying-bare-of-all type of intelligibility that Bryant and IPM often seem to be aiming for. I can't help but suspect that as 'looking for knowledge in all the wrong places'. And, as Neitszche suggests, precisely so as not to find it, and by such means maintain an imagined control.

If we cannot muster an embodied thought - myself, included - then can we at least have a discussion on what an Integral thought should aim for. Or, perhaps, how should an Integral thought that knows its own defeat conduct itself? Might there be an overcoming there, even?

theurj: You've complained before about a lack of embodiment in integral and OOO thought in general, and in my writing as well. I just don't see it, as that has always been one of my main focuses and is a near constant recurring theme. If you're referring more generally to style instead of content, I don't see the criticism their either. I am quite proud of my clear, concise, and aesthetic rhetorical acumen that embodies the content. Much like dance I've invested quite a bit in developing this artistic form. (As have both Bryant and Wilber, part of why I like them both.) Granted you might find other authors like Bennett more to your tastes in this regard, but that is more a matter of preference than of any lacking in those referenced.

Also keep in mind Morton's comments on rhetoric in the very first post in this thread.* While I often do not like or prefer Morton's rhetoric, I nonetheless acknowledge his able rhetorical style that embodies his content.

* "Rhetoric is not simply ear candy for humans: indeed, a thorough reading of Plato, Aristotle and Longinus suggests that rhetoric is a technique for contacting the strange stranger."

Dial: [referencing more of Morton's quote above, and a Sloterdijk quote in the thread] I am curious how you square the above with your comment below. Perhaps also keeping in mind some of the distinctions Sloterdijk is making between 'dispositionary knowledge' and that knowing where the 'seeker's eye is broken by the object.'

theurj: I don't need to square anything with Morton or Sloterkijk, since I don't accept their dichotomous framing. Like Bryant I don't see such clear boundaries between these modes but rather their porous and permeable interrelations. And which can be expressed clearly, concisely and aesthetically simultaneously. Recall above this was one difference between Bryant and Harman/Morton regarding the withdrawn, which I then related more generally to the shentong/rangtong debate.

That said, I agree with Morton in some regards; dislocation is important, but not to the exclusion of location; there is no absolute, privileged access to phenomenon (hence withdrawal); rhetorical affective-comtemplative techniques to contact the strange stranger. The last though does not necessitate something like traditional meditation. Rhetoric itself, i.e., aesthetic and persuasive language, can transform one's state of consciousness and motivate one to compassionate action without ever sitting on a cushion facing a wall and masturbating the (non)self. And, as I said above, such rhetoric can cross the boundaries between so-called exposition and aesthetics, not seeing them as dichotomous, as if we must first do one, then the other, and somehow 'integrate' them via some Hegelian sublation or Vedantic 'nondual' inclusion. The latter is still caught in a metaphysical trap, subtle as it may be even to the most sophisticated philosophers and meditators, Morton included.

A dance metaphor is that the best dancers combine both exacting technique with artistic and emotional expression in one performance. And that those boundaries interpenetrate.


  1. On a related note, Lakoff broke with Chomsky and was participant in the 'linguistic wars' on the very relation between syntax and semantics. Recall for Lakoff metaphor is more than just an aesthetic or rhetorical trope but empirically validated via quite precise 'scientific' modes. Hence syntax (form) itself is infected from its origin with semantics (meaning), and vice versa.

  2. Balder replied: Sloterdijk is not a shentong, and is not arguing for a shentong metaphysics in his book.

    One thing I'm concerned about in what you write above (especially when you frame rhetoric in empowering language and dismiss meditation as masturbation) is that arguing for porous, non-absolute boundaries between these domains (with which I generally agree) can perhaps slip, intentionally or unintentionally, into the absolutization of one's own preferred mode (here, rhetoric), since it, being porous, has "access" to the enactions of all other injunctive modes. "Good language can achieve anything you meditating wankers can achieve." A subtle logocentrism or language-centrism, it seems, is a potential here. I agree that language has the ability to shift consciousness and to inspire compassionate action, but would not go so far as to say that language can achieve anything any other mode of enaction can. I'm not sure if you even intended to suggest that, but the critical division in your comment above (rhetoric as skillful-aesthetic-transformative, meditation as masturbatory) prompted my concerns.

  3. I replied: I understand your concerns Balder. I know Slot is not arguing for a shetong metaphysics. For the most part it seems to the contrary. But on that one recent quote provided there does seem to be a more strict division between "dispositionary knowledge and that knowing where the seeker's eye is broken by the object." Granted they are not identical but the issue for me is how they remain distinct yet related, how those boundaries are crossed while still retaining them.

    In terms of contemplative praxis, of course solo meditation techniques are not identical with rhetoric. And yet I think similar, dare I say homeomorphic equivalencies (HE), might be drawn as to their contemplative goals? Yes, I went too far in my hyperbole calling it (non)self masturbation, but that is in response to what I perceive as a hegemonic meditation fetish in integral more generally, with its emphasis on Buddhism. We do not need to meditate in that way as part of an ILP and can find a HE path, which rhetoric more broadly construed might accomplish?

    Perhaps in light of this recent turn we should revisit "the world is made of stories" thread?*

    "David Loy explores the fascinating proposition that the stories we tell...become the very building blocks of our experience and of the universe itself."

    Therein I also referenced an IO thread on Loy called "The dharma of deconstruction," where Loy asks: "Do Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Derrida also help to liberate us from such problematic ways of thinking?"

    I'm also reminded of Derrida's bastard reasoning to apprehend khora and Merleau-Ponty's hyper-dialectic, which serves a similar function, also referenced in that thread.



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