Unreal Nature

November 28, 2020

The Face

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:23 am

… It is not the thickness of the sensible that is spread out between it and me listening to it …

This is from ‘Taking the Side of the Figural’ in The Lyotard Reader & Guide edited by Keith Crome and James Williams (2006):

… First and last philosophy is morality, as Emmanuel Levinas says; it is the face-to-face of the face because the face is the presence of the absolutely Other, the only Gegenstand worthy of this name; one which we cannot walk around and survey, which does not belong to the sensible, which announces something that I am unable to thematize as the reverse of what is present to me from my perspective, like the noema or a noesis.

[line break added] The face is the presence of speech. It is not the thickness of the sensible that is spread out between it and me listening to it, but the opening of the absolute, absolute disequilibrium, true irreversibility, which comprises not only the things and my look, as Claudel believed, but the infinite and the finite.

… let us enter into this place. We have to attack the insufficiency of discourse. It is easy enough to dissipate the current prestige of the system, of closure, in which the partisans of language believe themselves capable of imprisoning all meaning. Here we find ourselves once again with the text, but this time nobody has written it and it reads itself. Meager advantages no doubt. The impertinence remains, which is such a negligence regarding the sensible that it is as if humans had become bi-dimensional beings, with nothing to feel, but instead moving along the gaps in the network.

My previous post from Lyotard’s essay is here.



November 27, 2020

This Is Where the Trouble Starts

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… we have to invent ways of understanding.

This is from Sounding the Event: Escapades in Dialogue and Matters of Art, Nature and Time by Yve Lomax (2005):

… ‘Being prepared to receive what thought is not prepared to think is what deserves the name of thinking.’

An event speaks to no one, but in listening out for the It happens perhaps we will accept the occurrence for what it is: the ‘not yet’ determined. No one is the addressee of an event, but in receiving the ‘not yet’ determined perhaps you and I will think and write in ways that we have never thought or written before.

… I can’t account for the happening of the event; it doesn’t offer a story and neither is it a sign — it tells me sweet nothing. Indeed, the paradoxical constitution of the event means that what is initially said following the event will not be based on understanding. Whatever I say, whatever story I hazard to tell, will be based on almost nothing. Yes, whatever I say — and say something I must — will be somewhat of an invention

The presentation-event of It happens can only be grasped — and then only partially, never completely — by situating it, by dealing with its effect and hazarding to answer What is it that happens?

… And what now?

Well, you could say that events make us inventive, creative. An event, the It happens, tells us nothing and this means that we have to invent ways of understanding. Indeed, with almost nothing to hang our sayings and doings upon do we not have to use imagination? Yes, it could be said that events, for all the threat or marvel they bring, make us — and politics and theory and philosophy as well — inventive and creative, but this is where the trouble starts.

My most recent previous post from Lomax’s book is here.



November 26, 2020


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:16 am

… To exist is to have the kind of being proper to things enduring in time between their coming to be and their passing away.

This is from Painting and Reality by Étienne Gilson (1957):

The first question a philosopher should ask about paintings is related to their mode of existence. About what does not exist, there is nothing to say. About what does actually exist, the first point to be considered is the nature or modality of its existence.

Strictly speaking, the word being should be used only in connection with that which enjoys the fullness of being, without any restriction or qualification. Philosophers usually agree that, if there is a God, his nature precisely consists in enjoying the permanent possession of absolute being or, better still, in being it. Thus understood, the notion of being excludes those of change, of beginning and end. Being is, and that is about all there is to say about it.

Even though we may have reasons to affirm its reality, no such being is given in human experience. All the things we see and touch are particular and qualified beings. They are so many entities that endure in time between the moment each of them comes to be and the moment each of them finally passes away. The type of reality that characterizes such entities is less that of being, properly so called, than that of becoming.

[line break added] This time-honored distinction goes back at least as far as Plato, but it still is familiar to our own contemporaries. Most of us would agree that the kind of entity proper to things given in human experience is “existence” rather than “being.” To exist is to have the kind of being proper to things enduring in time between their coming to be and their passing away. No deduction is required to establish the fact that paintings belong in the category of those things which have existence.

[line break added] Each of them has come to be at a certain date, and as will be seen later on, each of them is fated to cease to be in a more or less distant future. While they are enduring in time, pictures or paintings are so many “existents.” For this reason, we shall feel justified in speaking of the existence of paintings, in asking about their mode or modes of existence; in short, we shall everywhere consider existence as the type of being that it is fitting to attribute to this particular class of works of art.



November 25, 2020


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… consciousness and life are one.

This is from The Genesis of Living Forms by Raymond Ruyer, translated by Jon Roffe and Nicholas B. de Weydenthal (1958, 2020):

…Given Spearman’s g factor — that is, given the characteristic capacity of intelligence and cerebral consciousness to pass from given terms to the relation that unites them, or from a term and a given relation to a second term united to the first by the relation — we can discern a general organic capacity that we can dub the ‘gamma factor,’ which is not only ‘noegenetic’ but ‘morphogenetic,’ and which acts according to the same laws.

[line break added] What is reproduction, regeneration and the characteristic equipotentiality of all life if not the capacity to ‘generalize,’ to act according to the similar or the thematic rather than according to pure causes? Since, as we have noted, even the reproduction of a virus or a protein cannot be a mechanical molding, it must rather be an ‘education of correlates,’ indissolubly both morpho- and noegenesis.

We have thus only been able to rediscover our fundamental conclusion, and the identification of formation and consciousness. We must not forget Spearman’s two principles — ‘education of relations,’ and ‘education of correlates’ — themselves dependent on a first principle which he rightly calls the ‘principle of consciousness,’ or ‘the principle of the apprehension of experience’: ‘All lived experience tends to immediately evoke a knowledge of its character, and an experiencing “I”.’ This is to say that consciousness and life are one.

My most recent previous post from Ruyer’s book is here.



November 24, 2020

The Rest

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:11 am

… what remains is not abstract, empty form …

This is from Sound and Symbol: Music and the External World by Victor Zuckerkandl (1956):

… What remains of a vessel if one thinks away all matter — hence not only the matter of its contents but also the matter of its body? Something that at best can be thought in pure abstraction. Time, says Leibniz, is idea, not reality.

… No — the experience of musical rhythm is an experience of time made possible through tones. In the unique phenomenon of the musical rest, we have as it were the crucial experiment for our thesis; the rest shows us, with a clarity that leaves nothing to be desired, what happens if tones are not just thought away but actually left out: what remains is not abstract, empty form but a highly concrete experience, the experience of rhythm. There would be no rhythm if time could not be experienced as such, in itself.

… we speak in sentences and every sentence must at least have a subject and a predicate — that of which something is stated and that which is stated — two terms. In so far as we accept the testimony of music as basic, the existence of time is the same as its activity. We observe an oscillation, an accumulation — and this oscillation, this accumulation, is time. That there is something else in addition, a something that oscillates and accumulates — however obvious such an assumption may seem to us, it has nothing to support it except habits of thought and speech.

My most recent previous post from Zuckerkandl’s book is here.



November 23, 2020

Shared Existence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

… the first intention and intuition (let us say a yearning, an obsession, something universal) can be tried out anew in the other language.

This is from ‘Translating Poetry’ by Yves Bonnefoy, translated by John Alexander and Clive Wilmer (1989); found in Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida edited by Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet (1992):

… Where a text has its felicities (accidental or not), its cruxes, its density — its unconscious — the translation must stick to the surface, even if its own cruxes crop up elsewhere. You can’t translate a poem.

But that’s all to the good, since a poem is less than poetry, and to the extent that one is denied something of the former the effect can be stimulating to the latter. A poem, a certain number of words in a certain order on the page, is a form, where all relation to what is other and finite — to what is true — has been suspended. And the author may take pleasure in this: it’s satisfying; one likes to bring things into being, things that endure, but one readily regrets having set oneself at odds with the place and time of true reciprocity.

[line break added] The poem is a means, a spiritual statement, which is not, however, an end. Publication puts it to the test: it is a time for reflection which one allows oneself, but this is not to settle for it, to make it hard and fast. And, of course, the best reader is similarly the one who cares for the poem: not as one cares for a being but in response to the irreducible content it addresses, to the meaning it bears.

[line break added] Let’s neither make an idol of the written page, nor, still less, regard it with that iconoclastic distaste that is inverted idolatry. At its most intense, reading is empathy, shared existence. And, in a sense, how disturbing that is! All that textual richness — ambiguities, wordplay, layers of meaning, etc. — denied the privilege of obliging us to solve their crossword puzzles. In their place, darkness and dull care. I will be reproached for impoverishing the text.

What we gain, however, by way of compensation, is the very thing we cannot grasp or hold: that is to say, the poetry of other languages.

We should in fact come to see what motivates the poem; to relive the act which both gave rise to it and remains enmeshed in it; and released from that fixed form, which is merely its trace, the first intention and intuition (let us say a yearning, an obsession, something universal) can be tried out anew in the other language. The exercise will now be the more genuine because the same difficulty manifests itself: that is to say, as in the original, the language (langue) of translation paralyzes the actual, tentative utterance (parole).

[line break added] For the difficulty of poetry is that language (langue) is a system, while the specific utterance (parole) is presence. But to understand this is to find oneself back with the author one is translating; it is to see more clearly the duress that bears on him, the maneuvers of thought he deploys against it; and the fidelities that bind him. For words will try to entice us into behaving as they do. Once a good translation has been set in motion, they will rapidly begin to justify the bad poem it turns into, and they will impoverish the experience for the sake of constructing a text.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.



November 22, 2020

The First of Freedom’s Demands

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:39 am

… ‘I am free’ always means: I can finally not fight.

This is from Rome: The First Book of Foundations by Michel Serres, translated by Randolph Burks (2015, 1983):

… Friend or foe? Choose. Be with us, otherwise you are against us. The injunction of this choice is a threat. Be Horatius or be Curiatius, from Rome or from Alba. Terror doesn’t come from combat, but from the terrifying obligation to take part in it. I am a survivor, profoundly wounded, of such terrors. I am a survivor of the physical terror during wartime, when no one escapes the choice.

[line break added] I am a survivor, even more wounded, of the terror of warlike police detective philosophers who track you down everywhere to subject you to this choice. Against or for? There are few free spaces: whatever the discipline, groups and ideas exclude some third way. The master subjects you to a terror, his terror, but the terror grows to the heavens if he subjects you to his battle: you are under the terror of a terrified tyrant. Your money or your life, the middle is excluded.

‘I am free’ always means: I can finally not fight. Not fighting is the first of freedom’s demands; the first of its requests.

… No one fights for freedom. He servilely obeys the passion for combat. When one fights for freedom, necessity quickly returns, worse.

My most recent previous post from Serres’s book is here.



November 21, 2020

The Given Is Not a Text

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:41 am

… The idea that the world is readable signifies that an Other, on the other side, writes the things, and that from the right point of view I could, in principle, decipher them.

This is from ‘Taking the Side of the Figural’ in The Lyotard Reader & Guide edited by Keith Crome and James Williams (2006):

That ‘the eye listens,’ as Claudel said, signifies that the visible is readable, audible, intelligible.

… This book protests: the given is not a text, there is a density to it, or rather a difference, a constitutive difference, which is not to be read, but to be seen; this difference, and the immobile mobility which reveals it, is what is continually forgotten in signifying it.

… A text does not have a physical depth; we do not have to move before it or inside it in order for it to accomplish its harmonies; if we do, it is only metaphorically. Yet the sensible world, the world of the forest, appears to be the absolute frame of reference of all analoga: here we move, seeking the composition, constituting the space of the scene, working on that plastic extension wherein the eye, the head, the body move or bathe … . It is the alignment of the eye that produces the harmony of the pine and the maple; an accomplished, since complete, harmony of silhouette, tone, value, position, desire that is fulfilled in an instant.

[line break added] An alignment of the eye; Claudel does not say an alignment of the pine and the maple. The two trees are ‘distant’; nevertheless the line of sight threads and sticks them together upon an indeterminate background or canvas. Very well: but this flattening constitutes ‘the scene’ and not a page of writing which is a sort of table. A scene is not read; it is not understood. Sitting before a table, one identifies, one recognizes linguistic unities; standing before a representation one seeks plastic, libidinal events.

The idea that the world is readable signifies that an Other, on the other side, writes the things, and that from the right point of view I could, in principle, decipher them.



November 20, 2020

The Sensation of There Is

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:01 am

… Do you have any sort of ear for hearing that sort of thing?

This is from Sounding the Event: Escapades in Dialogue and Matters of Art, Nature and Time by Yve Lomax (2005):

… I can say that I have the feeling that something is trying to be said but as yet can’t be put into sentences. Yes, I can say that, but I can’t say that I know what the sound I am hearing means. Is it announcing something? It sounds so but I can’t say that this is definitely so.
And what now?

But the And has barely anything to grab onto.

With the sound I am hearing, I can’t say what it is that is happening; all that I can say is that it is happening now. Indeed, all I can speak of is the sensation of an occurrence, the sensation of there is … But now, at this moment, I can’t fill in the dotted line.

… ‘What is already known cannot, in principle, be experienced as an event.’ [Lyotard]

… Listen:
‘Occurrence is the instant which “happens,” which “comes” unexpectedly but which, once it is there, takes its place in the network of what happens … It happens here and now. What (quid) happens comes later. The beginning is that there is … (quod) … ‘

… Do you have any sort of ear for hearing that sort of thing? / What I am hearing this philosopher ask is that we become attentive to the eventhood of the occurrence and in so doing not rush to determine what it might mean.

… I can’t grasp the presentation-event now, I can only grasp it by situating it, by determining what has happened; but, in the making of that determination later, the presentation time of the event will have been glossed, lost.

… Yes, what all too easily gets forgotten is that the event’s time is now, is absolute now, and as such is not yet one of the times that diachronic time presents along its (knotted) line.

My most recent previous post from Lomax’s book is here.



November 19, 2020

Opening Onto

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:28 am

… it became a necessity for art to work at other triangulations …

This is from Look: 100 Years of Contemporary Art by Thierry de Duve (2001):

… beneath the lid of romanticism seethes Christianity, or rather, Christianity without God. Its theory remains to be written, its practice perhaps to be invented. It’s a huge construction site many people are working on right now, which is a good sign. [ … ] The anthropological definition of the religious is “that which links,” involving the we where its flesh is concerned and the “you and I” where its form is concerned. Christianity is the first universal religion and the first one founded on this unique principle: “love they neighbor as thyself” — an ethical value which cannot be reduced to transference neurosis.

[line break added] You’d have to be either crazy or depraved to dare say that this value is not a value, and you’d have to be blind to history not to see that, for the past two centuries at least, it has no longer essentially been a religious value, but that it has changed into a political one. Isn’t Solidarnosc, to take a fairly recent example, a political name for love, and one which means “we all”? We ranges from we two to we all. The death of God altered the deal to the point of having apparently made humanism impossible and universalism suspect.

[line break added] Art could well have foundered, been crushed beneath the weight of big words too cumbersome to bear. But no, it reacted by working on little words such as deictics and pronouns. The expression “we all” must be translated by “you and I” rather than “they and I,” because it could no longer be addressed to a Being outside humanity. It is not for nothing that the question of the address to one and all has been at the core of the new pact which the avant-garde tried to draw up around art.

[line break added] Because modernity had stopped triangulating the relationships among humans by the common reference to a Father up there, it became a necessity for art to work at other triangulations, opening onto an X. Some people think that it is possible to cope without triangulation, by deploying all human relationships in the flatness of immanence. History teaches us, until further notice, that this is not possible, and that it is dangerous to repress the third tip of the triangle: there are too many Stalin-wannabes and too many televangelists keen to set themselves up there.

My most recent previous post from de Duve’s book is here.



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