Unreal Nature

November 6, 2014

Perpetual Renewal

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… What if thinking was simply whatever undoes any simple, extant definition?

This is from Philosophy and the Moving Image: Refractions of Reality by John Mullarkey (2009):

… Like the invisible monster in Forbidden Planet (1956) that is revealed in outline when a force field blocks its path, so the contours of film are illuminated when our theories pitch themselves against it.

… Just as [Bergson’s] sugar-in-coffee is a material endosmosis — an exchange, a montage, a refraction — so is our affective engagement with that process [of watching moving pictures]. We dissolve into the film’s duration just as it mixes itself with ours, emerging as an object for us as this happens. And so too for theory. Its impatience with film is also a refractive affect …

[ … ]

… Any form of philosophical representation or reflection on the subject infects it with that philosophy’s own nature. Indeed, all philosophical systems are transcendental in this sense. What philosophy calls the reality of the subject is always its concept of the subject. Hence, every philosophy is a mixture (‘mixte’) of that reality with a predefined interpretative schema, be it emotivist or cognitivist, materialist or idealist, ontological or epistemological. So long as we are philosophers, then, we cannot escape from the petitio principii of explanation.

… The autonomy of the Real leaves all philosophies relative. In a sense, non-Philosophy is a metatheory that discerns the activity of the Real (in any field) through its resistance to explanation, a resistance exposed by the fall-back or recoil of other philosophies into their own explanatory circles. Their failures to penetrate exclusively into the heart of the matter without question begging are themselves enlightening.

… What is being offered here [in this book], then, is not one more philosophy of film, but instead a thinking alongside the Real, which, in this context, means a passivity towards film in its thoughtful resistance to extant philosophy. We can never know what film is directly (again, there is no top-down definition of film, no ontology of film), but, again, we can infer what it is not in the peculiarities of individual films’ recalcitrance to various transcendent theories of film (whatever philosophers try to impose as the meaning or being of film through these films).

… Such an ecumenical position is more than mere liberal-minded openness (that only succeeds in offending everybody equally), but the achievement of something positive. The relative failure of each theory is also a partial success, each one catching a glimpse of what it is trying to explain that, when mixed together, allows a new view to emerge. Deleuze and Bordwell and Cavell and Žižek … offer us a differential philosophy of film, a montage of theories that refract each other simply by their being copresented. Branigan’s radiality, Deleuze’s movement-image, Anderson’s selective perception, Bordwell’s empiricism, Badiou’s empty essence of cinema, Žižek’s traumatic Real, Cavell’s acknowledgment, Perkins’s suggestion, Rancière’s thwarted fable, Laruelle’s non-philosophy, Bergson’s fabulation: all are partial glimpses but are never, and could never be, the whole. And there is something quite cinematic about this very process of stitching ideas together.

… No less than a film coevolves with its spectator (a single viewer or large audience) in each viewing event, so philosophy coevolves with its ‘object’ (or subject matter) in an event of novelty when both refract each other (a fabulated significance rendered by that subject from the processes of the subject matter). Philosophy is not of the new, it is the new — in its struggle, in its shock and its wonder. Which is not to define it at all in terms of ‘the new’ (as if we knew what that meant), but only to say that philosophy is perpetually indefinite and resists definition.

So, in coming back to the question, ‘what is thinking?’, perhaps we should stop begging for these questions of definition altogether. To offer a first alternative, what, instead, if thinking was never any definite or extant activity? What if thinking was simply whatever undoes any simple, extant definition? [ … ] The plurality together gives us the outline of perpetual renewal: extant plurality equals more plurality to come. Not many truths equalling no truth, but the endless becoming of truth.

… It is not the thing that counts (which is itself a complexity of other movements condensed into an immobile by your perception), but how it moves (you) — the movement as transformative relation between subject and object.

… definitional circularity must be displaced through action. Bergson gives the example of actually swimming in order to break the definitional circle that knowledge of swimming is a prerequisite of learning to swim; that is, an actual movement must be enacted to show that something new — beyond present knowing and being — is possible. Or as Rancière puts it in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, ‘the circle of emancipation must be begun.’ Only this enactment and showing acknowledges its own new knowledge. Is not something similar happening when film moves us to think its thoughts by ‘inverting’ our normal ways of thinking?

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

-Julie

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