Unreal Nature

January 8, 2018

The Freedom to Disobey

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… Is there a free individual who can freely give himself such a maxim without soon feeling terrorized by the injunction of terrorism with which his maxim invests him?

Continuing through Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… Earlier, we asked the following question: how obey the injunction [“do whatever”] if the injunction doesn’t say?

… Do what you want, yes, do whatever freely, but do it so as to convey, through the maxim that you give yourself, the feeling that you obey an injunction which you have received, and that it is this injunction which compels you to will that your maxim should become a universal law. … This is the first side of the modern imperative, its generous and utopian side, that which admonished Kandinsky, for example, to anchor to the maxim of abstraction the foundation of a universal pictorial language speakable by anyone. … That is the side of hope, but it is also that of disappointed hopes.

… the other side of the modern imperative never promised enchantment. It only proclaimed terror. How obey the injunction if the injunction doesn’t say? Well, I do what I want, the maxim answers, and whatever I do, whatever I want, I obey. My violence is legitimate and my will is pure. But the more violent I am in my will for freedom, the more I am hostage to my violence. Is there a free individual who can freely give himself such a maxim without soon feeling terrorized by the injunction of terrorism with which his maxim invests him?

[line break added] Delivered over to its sole radicality, the maxim is merely necessary, but of that blind and irresponsible necessity that produces happenstance crimes to which all are hostage, their authors as well as their victims. It lacks freedom, the freedom, that is, to disobey. And that is what the whatever, as maxim that obliges and authorizes all at once, prohibits. But it is also what the whatever, as categorical imperative, prohibits being prohibited.

… I ought to have the possibility of not endorsing the imperative of the whatever and of not making it my maxim. And it is at that same intimate point — between the you who is the recipient of the law and the voluntary I of the maxim — that the order of disobeying is conveyed to me: don’t do whatever.

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

-Julie

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