Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Theoria as contemplation beyond intellectual seeing

God's appearance to Moses in the burning bush was often elaborated on by the Early Church Fathers,[39] especially Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – 395),[40][5][41] realizing the fundamental unknowability of God;[39][42] an exegesis which continued in the medieval mystical tradition.[43] Their response is that, although God is unknowable, Jesus as person can be followed, since "following Christ is the human way of seeing God."[44]

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – 215) was an early proponent of apophatic theology.[45][5] Clement holds that God is unknowable, although God's unknowability, concerns only his essence, not his energies, or powers.[45] According to R.A. Baker, in Clement's writings the term theoria develops further from a mere intellectual "seeing" toward a spiritual form of contemplation.[46] Clement's apophatic theology or philosophy is closely related to this kind of theoria and the "mystic vision of the soul."[46] For Clement, God is transcendent and immanent.[47] According to Baker, Clement's apophaticism is mainly driven not by Biblical texts, but by the Platonic tradition.[48] His conception of an ineffable God is a synthesis of Plato and Philo, as seen from a Biblical perspective.[49] According to Osborne, it is a synthesis in a Biblical framework; according to Baker, while the Platonic tradition accounts for the negative approach, the Biblical tradition accounts for the positive approach.[50] Theoria and abstraction is the means to conceive of this ineffable God; it is preceded by dispassion.[51]

According to Tertullian (c. 155–c. 240):

[T]hat which is infinite is known only to itself. This it is which gives some notion of God, while yet beyond all our conceptions – our very incapacity of fully grasping Him affords us the idea of what He really is. He is presented to our minds in His transcendent greatness, as at once known and unknown.[52]

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (313–386), in his Catechetical Homilies, states:

For we explain not what God is but candidly confess that we have not exact knowledge concerning Him. For in what concerns God to confess our ignorance is the best knowledge.[53]Filippo Lippi, Vision of St. Augustine, c. 1465, tempera, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.

Augustine of Hippo (354–430) defined God aliud, aliud valde, meaning 'other, completely other', in Confessions 7.10.16,[54] wrote Si [enim] comprehendis, non est Deus,[55] meaning 'if you understand [something], it is not God', in Sermo 117.3.5[56] (PL 38, 663),[57][58] and a famous legend tells that, while walking along the Mediterranean shoreline meditating on the mystery of the Trinity, he met a child who with a seashell (or a little pail) was trying to pour the whole sea into a small hole dug in the sand. Augustine told him that it was impossible to enclose the immensity of the sea in such a small opening, and the child replied that it was equally impossible to try to understand the infinity of God within the limited confines of the human mind.[59][60][61]

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Quarrel over values

Once we throw off the evolutionary shackles that still implicitly dominate our thinking on such matters, and realize that politics has always existed, such questions become far easier to address. After all, what is politics, in the final analysis, but a collection of quarrels over contrasting conceptions of what is valuable in human life?

Risk and Insurance

is not all architecture a manifestation of risk and insurance?

insurance that manages risk at all levels, from the risk of immediate material loss, to the risk of attack, the risk of famine, to the risk of an inability to make the kinds of relationships that not only allow one to survive but to be at home in the world, to understand it, to unmake and make it, or to at least survive it. 

but for example, the risk of depression (and hence the tendency towards lack of motivation to produce and even consume) is every bit as much a product of the form of architecture and the urban, as it is mitigated by its particular forms. Architecture since the rise of industrialization has been involved in a dialectical process of increasing risk, while mitigating it at the same time.

but capitalist insurance (for profit m - i - m) assesses risks in terms of financial cost.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Architecture and Distribution

The distribution of blackmail, power, and resources and the distribution of the surplus of the community's productive output 

What a community does with its surplus defines the community

Power, agency, the ability to cause desired effects in the other

Authority, the legitimate use of power

Resources, 'property' (if the concept exists) and surplus 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Subject matter [Sachgehalt] and Truth Content [Wahrheitsgehalt]

Benjamin illuminates this passage, in which philology and history find their most authentic connection, with a reference to his essay on 'Elective Affinities'. 7 It is worth quoting this passage at length, since it defines the relationship between the two fundamental concepts of 'subject matter' [Sachgehalt] and 'truth content' [Wahrheitsgehalt]. 

Critique is concerned with the truth content of a work of art, the commentary with its subject matter. The relationship between the two is determined by that basic law of literature according to which the work's truth content is the more relevant the more inconspicuously and intimately it is bound up with its subject matter. If therefore precisely those works turn out to endure whose truth is most deeply embedded in their subject matter, the beholder who contemplates them long after their own time finds the realia all the more striking in the work as they have faded away in the world. This means that subject matter and truth content, united in the work's early period, come apart during its afterlife; the subject matter becomes more striking while the truth content retains its original concealment. To an ever-increasing extent, therefore, the interpretation of the striking and the odd, that is, of the subject matter, becomes a prerequisite for any later critic. One may liken him to a paleographer in front of a parchment whose faded text is covered by the stronger outlines of a script referring to that text. Just as the paleographer would have to start with reading the script, the critic must start with commenting on his text. And out of this activity there arises immediately an inestimable criterion of critical judgment: only now can the critic ask the basic question of all criticism - namely, whether the work's shining truth content is due to its subject matter or whether the survival of the subject matter is due to the truth content. For as they come apart in the work, they decide on its immortality. In this sense the history of works of art prepares their critique, and this is why historical distance increases their power. If, to use a simile, one views the growing work as a funeral pyre, its commentator can be likened to the chemist, its critic to an alchemist. While the former is left with wood and ashes as the sole objects of his analysis, the latter is concerned only with the enigma of the flame itself: the enigma of being alive. Thus the critic inquires about the truth whose living flame goes on burning over the heavy logs of the past and the light ashes of life gone by.

- Agamben on Benjamin

Happiness and History

 'In considering history one can also adopt the viewpoint of happiness, but history is not the site of happiness.' Hence the emergence, in the Hegelian philosophy of history, of the sombre figure of 'great historical individuality' in which is incarnated 'the soul of the world'. 'Great men' are merely instrumental in the forward march of the universal Spirit. Like individuals, 'they do not know what is commonly held as happiness'. 'Once they have reached their goal, they sag like empty sacks.'

Agamben on Hegel 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Autnomy and Opression

Ad Reinhardt, 1951

...only on the back of a material surplus can culture become autonomous. By "autonomous" I mean of course not "independent of any material context," which we can all agree is bourgeois-idealist, but something much more challenging and interesting, such as "autonomous of those subservient political and ideological functions in church, court, and state which culture had traditionally fulfilled." This can happen only when a society has the material means to support a specialized caste of professional artists and intellectuals, and when the growth of the market is such that these people can now become independent of the state or the governing class and become dependent for their livelihood on market forces instead.

Art becomes relatively autonomous of its material conditions precisely by being more firmly integrated into the economic, not by being cut adrift from it. To register both the delights and disasters of this historical moment-that is to say, to consider it dialectically, as both oppression and emancipation-requires a thinking-on-both-sides of which postmodern theory has so far proved itself lamentably incapable. Autonomy frees you [the cultural producer in particular] from being the [obviously] hired hack of the rulers, allows art to become for the first time critique, and permits the artwork itself to show forth in its very forms an autotelism which rebukes the brutal utilitarianism of its surroundings. There is also a considerably more downbeat side of the story, but one rather that is less in need of being rehearsed. The point, anyway, is that anyone who thinks that culture's historical autonomy of material functions is just a bad thing, like smoking or salt, is a moralist rather than a materialist; and that this partial, relative autonomy of material conditions is itself the effect of material conditions. It is this, not some shop-soiled doctrine about the need to relate culture to context, that is specific about the historical materialist contribution to the argument. It is this, not some shop-soiled doctrine about the need to relate culture to context, that is specific about the historical materialist contribution to the argument.

To put the point rather more luridly: only when culture is thoroughly saturated by exchange-value does it wax politically utopian. For it is then that the artifact, fissured down the middle between use- and exchange value, tries to resist the miseries of commodification at the level of the economic by a defiant autotelism at the level of ideology-by the courageous, vainglorious claim that it is its own end, ground, and raison d'etre. This, to be sure, is to make a cultural virtue out of historical necessity: in a desperate last-ditch rationalization, the work must be its own end, since it scarcely seems to have any other very salient function any longer. But this autotelism can then become an image of how men and women themselves might be under altered material conditions. Marx himself, who is a full-blooded aesthete on such questions, holds that the point of socialism is to abolish the instrumental treatment of objects and human beings so that they may delight in the realization of their sensuous powers and capacities just for the sake of it (what he knows as "use-value"), rather than be forced to justify their delight in that autotelism at the tribunal of some higher Reason, World-Spirit, History, Duty, or Utility. 

The chief interest of Goldsmith's words for my purpose, though, lies in their curious prefiguring of the Marxist base/superstructure model laws and sciences being, as Goldsmith recognizes, somehow functional with regard to property relations. And here I move at last to the main theme of my paper. I must confess first that I belong to that dwindling band who still believe that the base/superstructure model has something valuable to say, even if this is nowadays a proportion smaller than those who believe in the Virgin Birth or the Loch Ness monster, and positively miniscule in comparison with those who believe in alien abductions. Surely the Virgin Birth is about as plausible as this static, mechanistic, reductive, economistic, hierarchical, undialectical model of how it is with culture and economics?

Let me first dispel if I can one or two common false assumptions about this now universally reviled paradigm. The first concerns its "hierarchical" nature. The model is indeed hierarchical, but it is hard to see what is so sinister about that. It holds, in short, that some things are more important or crucially determinant than others, as does any human being who, in Edmund Burke's fine phrase, "walks abroad without a keeper." It may be wrong as to what it considers more determinant than what; but you really cannot fault a doctrine for holding that some things are more true or important than others, since there is no doctrine which does not. Every doctrine, for example, implicitly holds that it is itself more true than its opposite, and this includes claims like "there is no truth," or "nothing is more important than anything else."


Secondly, the base/superstructure model is not out to argue that law, culture, ideology, the state, and various other inhabitants of the superstructure are less real or material than property relations. It is not, in this sense at least, an ontological claim. We can all happily agree that prisons and museums are quite as real as banks. It is not a claim about degrees of ontological reality; nor is it simply a claim about priorities or preconditions. The assertion that we must eat before we can think ("Eats first, morals second" as Brecht observed) is only an instance of the base/ superstructure model if it carries with it the claim that what we eat somehow shapes or conditions what we think. The doctrine, in short, is about determinations.

- Terry Eagleton, 2000

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The "Visible Personality" and the Machinery of Rational or 'Structural' Subordination

quantum computer

As this was later expressed succinctly, “objects do not go into their concepts without leaving a remainder.” There is always a supplement. And finally, these objects and phenomena are not independent, but can only be understood in relation to other realities that constitute them. These realities include larger wholes of which they are parts (which are themselves dynamic, developing phenomena, and thus relative wholes, not closed or completed totalities), and the other elements of these larger wholes.

Dialectical social theory is thus a many-sided critique of the objectification or reification of any aspect of reality. It might seem confusing when dialectical theorists such as Hegel and Marx state that one phenomenon is “identical” with another (e.g. that production and consumption are identical). However, this has nothing to do with any “identity theory” in which particularity and difference are explained away, but quite the opposite. It is an expression of the doctrine of internal relations, the view that the “outside” is “inside’ and that there is no way of insulating a reality from that outside. It expresses the fundamental truth that “negation is determination” and “determination is negation.” It means that we must look both at systemic determination and at the repressed side of any relationship of mutual determination. This is the message of Hegel’s Master–Slave Dialectic, in which he shows that domination produces not only the master’s freedom to consume the product of the slave’s labor, but also the master’s dependence on that labor. This is also the message of Marx’s dialectical analysis of labor, in which he shows that the answer to the question “what do we produce through our labor” is not merely “the product,” but also a system of production, a system of distribution, a system of consumption, relations of production, social classes, wealth and poverty, pride and humiliation, solidarity and alienation, and, not least of all, on the
most general level, ourselves and our social world.

[people are always calculating their position within the assemblage, their advantage relative to others - it is perhaps the aspect of the asymmetrical distribution of resources, recognition, fame and so on which is most crucial to the maintenance of the present order of things]

... in dialectical theory concepts gain both universality and richness of particularity in the course of the analysis. The fundamental flaw of dogmatic theory is that it is excessively attached to certain conceptions of reality and to the material conditions that create those conceptions, and cannot let go of either.

"The center of authority in this new system is no longer a visible personality, an all-powerful king: even in totalitarian dictatorships the center now lies in the system itself, invisible but omnipresent: all its human components, even the technical and managerial elite, even the sacred priesthood of science, who alone have access to the secret knowledge by means of which total control is now swiftly being effected, are themselves trapped by the very perfection of the organization they have invented."

Advocates of the view that domination must be personal argue that there can be no domination without agents of domination. Mumford’s analysis points out the fallacy of reading too much into the need for agents in a system of domination. No one would argue absurdly that a system of social domination could exist without the presence of human beings who act socially. However, the fact that these agents must exist in no way demonstrates that the phenomenon of domination can be reduced to domination by specific agents, nor is it evidence against the existence of domination by systemic forces that do not correlate with specific agents. The actual history of domination shows that the reciprocal interaction and mutual determination between agents and system result in a degree of loss of agency in a strong sense (intentional, purposeful activity) on the part of such agents. To the extent that the system constrains both the dominant and the subordinate, and to the extent that systemic constraints are not the result of intentional acts of the dominant, the simple model of domination as a direct relationship between dominating agents and dominated subjects breaks down.

Some aspects of these themes are developed further in the Frankfurt School’s critical theory of society, which synthesizes the Marxian idea of commodity fetishism, Weberian concepts of bureaucracy and technique, and Freudian themes of desire and the unconscious to help explain the evolution of domination in late capitalist society. The resulting critique shows that an understanding of domination today requires recognition of the central role of the culture industry and mass consumption, the growing tendency toward total administration, and the spread of instrumental rationality to all spheres of existence. In Eros and Civilization, Marcuse points out how the traditional personal and hierarchical dimensions of economic domination have declined in importance. Obviously, this does not mean that the
subjective dimension disappears within this transformed system. Marcuse himself argues that in late capitalism aggressive impulses proliferate within the subjective realm, but find few channels for expression. Lacan describe show desire and demand take on new forms in relation to the other/Other, as these are defined and generated by the dominant system, including both the Symbolic Order and the Imaginary Order that is dialectically related to it. De Certeau and Foucault show that an infinite number of more or less personal and creative tactics of power are generated in response to the system, apart from any strategies of power dictated objectively by the logic of that system. However, despite all these transformations of subjectivity, and indeed because of them, the modes of operation of the system of domination itself become more impersonal. “At its peak, the concentration of economic power seems to turn into anonymity: everyone, even at the very top, appears to be powerless before the movements and laws of the apparatus itself.”23 

Marcuse develops this idea in One Dimensional Man, where he argues that late capitalist, industrial society “alters the base of domination by gradually replacing personal dependence (of the slave on the master, the serf on the lord of the manor, the lord on the donor of the fief, etc.) with dependence on the ‘objective order of things’ (on economic laws, the market etc.).”24 At the same time that some of the more blatant manifestations of social domination disappear and it becomes more deeply embedded in objective reality, the system also increasingly legitimates itself through consumptionist values based on the fruits of social domination and the domination of nature. The system “sustains its hierarchic structure, while exploiting ever more efficiently the natural and mental resources, and distributing the benefits of this exploitation on an ever-larger scale.”

The role of the commodity, as the primary means of allocating such benefits, becomes central to the legitimation process, displacing to a certain degree such classical mechanisms of domination as authoritarian conditioning and formal ideological indoctrination. The claims of classical ideology could to a certain degree be assessed as objectively either true or false. But when ideology is embedded in the objective order of things (as ideology invades and increasingly pervades the fabric of ethos), it ironically escapes the realm of objectivity. Adorno defines the commodity as “a consumer item in which there is no longer anything that is supposed to remind us how it came into being. It becomes a magical object.”26 In effect, you can’t argue with magic. This is the character of advanced forms of domination: they operate in ways that leave few obvious traces of their functioning. Thus, the Frankfurt School shows that we have entered a period in which domination operates increasingly through two divergent but complementary means, through values of mass consumption and the harnessing of desire (repressive sublimation) on the one hand, and through the mechanism of techno-bureaucratic control and instrumental rationality on the other. These are the two poles of the historic tendency away from traditional dominance and subordination and toward impersonal mechanisms of social domination.

A decisive step in the development of the theory of domination is the convergence of many of these themes in the situationist concept of the society of the spectacle. According to the situationist analysis, the “increasing value of the world of things” finally culminates in the spectacle, a vast system of representation with overwhelming power over a generally pacified mass of consumers and spectators. Debord contends that the principle of commodity fetishism is “absolutely fulfilled in the spectacle, where the perceptible world is replaced by a set of images that are superior to that world yet at the same time impose themselves as eminently perceptible.”27 He calls the result “spectacular domination.”28 This analysis is particularly noteworthy for the ways in which elements of the social imaginary, the social ideology, and the social ethos are fused into a unified yet widely dispersed apparatus of domination that at once intimately pervades everyday life and at the same overawes the masses as a distant and overwhelming power.29 Domination takes on its most impersonal, systemic, and mystified form, even as the techniques of control increasingly address precisely the realm of subjectivity. L’Imaginaire is most certainly au pouvoir, as the subject is controlled above all by the hopeless quest for a satisfying identity through identification with an endless stream of commodified images, the fragments of the good life. The ultimate object of desire becomes the objet petit achat.

- John Clark

Archizoom, Dream Bed

By exploring the realms of differentiated tastes and aesthetic preferences (and doing whatever they could to stimulate those tasks), architects and urban designers have re-emphasized a powerful aspect of capital accumulation: the production and consumption of what Bourdieu (1977; 1984) calls 'symbolic capital.' The latter can be defined as 'the collection of luxury goods attesting the taste and distinction of the owner.' Such capital is, of course, transformed money capital which 'produces its proper effect inasmuch, and only inasmuch, as it conceals the fact that it originates in "material" forms of capital.' The fetishism (direct concern with surface appearances that conceal underlying meanings) is obvious, but it is here deployed deliberately to conceal, through the realms of culture and taste, the real basis of economic distinctions. Since 'the most successful ideological effects are those which have no words, and ask no more than complicitous silence,' the production of symbolic capital serves ideological functions because the mechanisms through which it contributes 'to the reproduction of the established order and the perpetuation of domination remain hidden.'

It is instructive to put Krier's search for symbolic richness in the context of Bourdieu's theses. The search to communicate social distinctions through the acquisition of all manner of symbols of status has long been a central facet of urban life. Simm el produced some brilliant analyses of this phenomenon at the turn of the century, and a whole series of researchers (such as Firey in 1945 and Jager in 1986) have returned again and again to consideration of it. But I think it is fair to say that the modernist push, partly for practical, technical, and economic, but also for ideological reasons, did go out of its way to repress the significance of symbolic capital in urban life. The inconsistency of such a forced democratization and egalitarianism of taste with the social distinctions typical of what, after all, remained a class-bound capitalist society, undoubtedly created a climate of repressed demand if not repressed desire (some of which was expressed in the cultural movements of the 1960s). This repressed desire pro bably did play an important role in stimulating the market for more diversified urban environments and architectural styles. This is the desire, of course, that many postmodernists seek to satisfy, if not titillate shamelessly. 'For the middle class suburbanite,' Venturi et al. observe, 'living not in an antebellum mansion, but in a smaller version lost in a large space, identity must come through symbolic treatment of the form of the house, either by styling provided by the developer (for instance, split-level Colonial) or through a variety of symbolic ornaments applied thereafter by the owner.'

The trouble here is that taste is a far from static category. Symbolic capital remains capital only to the degree that the whims of fashion sustain it. Struggles exist among the taste makers, as Zukin shows in an excellent work on Loft living, which examines the roles of 'capital and culture in urban change' by way of a study of the evolution of a real-estate market in the Soho district of New York. Powerful forces, she shows, established new criteria of taste in art as well as in urban living, and profited well off both. Conjoining the idea of symbolic capital with the search to market Krier's symbolic richness has much to tell us, therefore, about such urban phenomena as gentrification, the production of community (real, imagined, or simply packaged for sale by producers), the rehabilitation of urban landscapes, and the recuperation of history (again, real, imagined, or simply reproduced as pastiche). It also helps us to comprehend the present fascination with embellishment, ornamentation, and decoration as so many codes and symbols of social distinction. I am not at all sure that this is what Jane Jacobs had in mind when she launched her criticism of modernist urban planning.

Paying attention to the needs of the 'heterogeneity of urban villagers and taste cultures,' however, takes architecture away from the ideal of some unified meta-language and breaks it down into highly differentiated discourses. 'The "langue" (total set of communications sources) is so heterogeneous and diverse that any singular "parole" (individual selection) will reflect this.' Although he does not use the phrase, Jencks could easily have said that the language of architecture dissolves into highly specialized language games, each appropriate in its own way to a quite different interpretative community.

-  David Harvey on Pierre Bourdieu

Monday, January 22, 2024

Magical Technicity

Already in the nineteenth century technical progress proceeded at such an astonishing rate, even as did social and economic situations as a consequence, that all moral, political, social, and economic situations were affected. Given the overpowering suggestion of ever new and surprising inventions and achievements, there arose a religion of technical progress which promised all other problems would be solved by technological progress. This belief was self-evident to the great masses of the industrialized countries. They skipped all intermediary stages typical of the thinking of intellectual vanguards and turned the belief in miracles and an afterlife - a religion without intermediary stages into a religion of technical miracles, human achievements, and the domination of nature. A magical religiosity became an equally magical technicity. The twentieth century began as the age not only of technology but of a religious belief in technology. It is often called the age of technology. But this is only a tentative characterization of the whole situation. The question of the significance of overwhelming technicity should for now be left open, because the belief in technology is in fact only the result of a certain tendency in the shifting of the central domain - as a belief, it is only the result of this shifting.

- Carl Schmitt, The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations, 1929

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Typology and Beings

Typology compels us to investigate what is implicit about any given example of architecture in its paradigmatic aspects. Which kind of beings and entities exist, and what kind of agency do they have in the figuration of the world. 

The entities and beings that are explicitly or implicitly acknowledged in the process of thinking about and forming relationships that are involved in the design, construction and use of architecture, are also sympathised with in the rhythms of their own worlds and realities so that the 'designer' can make the world with them. Furthermore, for beings like the sun, or a river, the act of sympathetic ritual or magic is an act of assistance, to assist the sun in reproducing its movement across the sky, or the river to flow and flood at a particular time of year. However, this making the world with, is never about that world being predetermined or destined for a perfect or Natural form, but is always a political act without any predetermined or destined reality or one perfect form. In fact every individual and every community, at different times, in different places and circumstances, will likely develop a different form of practice and architecture to recreate their world in their own particular way. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Kinship and Artifice

The biological family is present and persists in human society. But what gives to kinship its character as a social fact is not what it must conserve of nature; it is the essential step by which it separates itself from nature. A system of kinship does not consist of objective blood ties; it exists only in the consciousness of men; it is an arbitrary system of representations, not the spontaneous development of a situation of fact.

- Claude Levi Strauss

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Ideal Geometry and Power

God the Geometer, Codex Vindobonensis 2554, circa 1220-1230

To keep in touch with the beginning. The beginning is always beginning again every time we speak, think and build. This very keeping in touch with the beginning, with the place where nothing is yet determined, fixed, or decided and yet where Nature is suspended. This sits at the core of the power to recognise and listen to forms of relationality, and to work on them intuitively and to understand that have the possibility to be otherwise. But the beginning is not nothing, nor is it Nature per see. The beginning is with that aspect of reality, of politics and culture that has no apparent relationship with anything we can see or know. This transcendent aspect of form is a reminder of the lack of any fixed or destined way of working, thinking, living and so on.

The use of abstract geometry involves possessing the possibility to use the break, to suspend, to see relations and to thus work on their form, to make them otherwise. break again and again.

Through making something through creating something using the primary, the ideal and non-existent, one is also suspending.

It is an act of rematerializing the origin – if one keeps in touch with that power, they keep in touch with the ability to suspend and create reality as interrelationality.

One must go through poverty to go beyond poverty. The ability to establish poverty, to in some sense, destroy and wipe away, is power. But there is never an accumulation, one must keep in touch with poverty, must constantly re-enact it, to stay in touch with the power to suspend and create worlds. When one thinks, acts and builds one must carry the inessentiality of practice into the realised work. 

On of the problems with the maintaining of the ability to access this power, is that we cannot simply embrace the dissolution of our world without losing everything. Thus we must have something transcendent when we do the destroying, and we must create while we destroy. We must bring something into being that carries the innessentility of any act with it, into the creation of something. That is core of power. This is not nihilistic act but it’s the opposite. The ability to have something primary, beyond the earth, acknowledge all of those relations that make us who we are by suspending them for a moment, allowing us to see them, and thus work on them.

In other words, we can’t approach this threshold of nothingness, and thus divine creative power, and thus state of seeing and hearing unless we have a very clear and defined practice. 

To have something yet let go in the sense of opening a perspective on everything else.

Primary geometries, and the fact that they too have a life of their own, are angels that fight evil. That fight invisibilisation and obfuscation. The fight the naturalisation of that which has been entirely constructed. They are sources of the power to suspend and therefore construct the otherwise. Divine power. 

The invisibilisation (complete obfuscation to the extent that it never crosses our mind to even question the maleuability of this aspect of reality) of the constructedness of the thing so that there is no trace of how it came into being. 

The idea or the ideal, that abstract geometry in the imagination, is transcendent in that it doesn’t exist in material reality, it’s impossible,  but it has nothing except it’s perfection and it’s absolute primacy. It is something perfect but it has nothing else. It carries with it nothing. No ideology, no identity, no property, no function, no materiality, no fixity. 

It’s a vessel to see things with clarity, to let go of anything else. 

When come across Loos’ 2x4 foot mound you are witnessing the simultaneous creation and suspension of reality 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Familiar Horror

 “The family only exists as a family, that is, as a hell, for those who’ve quit trying to alter its debilitating mechanisms, or don’t know how to. The freedom to uproot oneself has always been a phantasmic freedom. We can’t rid ourselves of what binds us without at the same time losing the very thing to which our forces would be applied.”

The Invisible Committee

Tuesday, June 27, 2023


Ghosts live in the quiet, archaic pockets of a production machine that has almost totally consumed reality.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

About the old Non-typological architecture

Non-typological Architecture is an architectural research practice begun by Brendon Carlin in 2020. Working with dozens of collaborators, influences, muses and mutants, our research and work are ultimately concerned with praxis as theory embedded in reflection and action, or as a mode of thinking, working and building. Thus, what is at stake for us is the form of praxis and architecture. Given our potential for more interesting and caring worlds, we mustn't merely interpret and represent our situation in various ways; the point is to live it as if it had already changed. We can of course even begin at the scale of our own pen, desk, kitchen or street.
        The contemporary city is so often a giant invisibilisation and suspension machine in which the architect is patronised as a kind of magician who alchemically weaves a costume of protection, community, spectacle, spontaneity, and progress for what is instead a macabre carnival where life is treated as mere instrument, as reservoir-for-extraction or as means-to-an-end. The endless expansion of potential for extraction increasingly destroys and uproots, provoking us to adapt, innovate, and do more with less. This increasing destruction and instability are paradoxically masked by a total overabundance of production, games, roles, and distractions, and a plethora of fleeting existential crutches. Thus, we are blindly bound into a downward spiral that only deepens our many crises, and hastens the desertification of the earth. In this desert, we cannot orient ourselves, and nothing radically new is ever allowed to actualise or take form.
        Lately, in a seeming paradox, a ‘dissolution’ of architecture, historical typology, old modes of working and planned divisions of space are accompanied by increasingly inperceptable forms of control, regulation, parsing, codification, and capture. The more tightly contained and regulated, the more unplannable and blurry. Despite the fact that this kind of tendency is oppressive because it generates and maintains crisis to which we are obligated to struggle and adapt, our architecture departs from the theory that these tendencies offer a crucial lever. For "where the danger grows, grows too the saving power."
        This accelerated uprooting and obligation to adapt treads dangerously close to revealing our absolutely ‘stable’ ground: we are inessential beings and yet we are nature, nature is our limit. Inessentiality becomes a kind of core potentiality when it reveals the fact that we are not predestined to repeat history or our genetic coding, or to do or be anyone or thing, or to live or work in any particular form. As Aristotle discovered but then hastily abandoned, since at least the invention of language, we are beings without any preordained work, destiny or fixed nature – this is precisely why we have a possibility of Politics and Architecture.
        But because we live ‘exposed’ on this open, empty stage of possibility, we need and make rituals, forms, and worlds. Here, we can look to specific examples from the history of dwelling and architecture as a treasure-trove of common memories, an archive of (often stolen) world-destroying and generating edges, forms, moments, and rhythms. We can use them. Against the growing desert, we can build places (as parádisos, or gardens) in which we might conceive of, or simply enjoy a more splendid use of our time and our lives.
        Non-typological Architecture is concerned with the irreducibility of singular examples of architecture as absolūtus: as manifestations of what we share in common, but at the very same moment, are to each one of us our very own. At our highest ambition, we work to open architecture to new, free and common uses, and thus set the stage for entirely other worlds to actually unfold. "At that point, when we have wrenched it away from fate, happiness coincides entirely with our knowing ourselves to be capable of magic."

- Brendon Carlin 2021

Sunday, May 28, 2023

On Type

Type points to but a moment of form's perception, an index, perceivable by nothing other than the spirit, that countless lives inhabit us.

- BC

Countless lives inhabit us

Countless lives inhabit us.
I don’t know, when I think or feel,
Who it is that thinks or feels.
I am merely the place
Where things are thought or felt.

I have more than just one soul.
There are more I’s than I myself.
I exist, nevertheless,
Indifferent to them all.
I silence them: I speak.

The crossing urges of what
I feel or do not feel
Struggle in who I am, but I
Ignore them. They dictate nothing
To the I I know: I write.

- Fernando Pessoa

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Sioux 'Typology'

The relationships that serve to form the unity of nature are of vastly more importance to most tribal religions. The Indian is confronted with a bountiful earth in which all things and experiences have a role to play. The task of the tribal religion, if such a religion can be said to have a task, is to determine the proper relationship that the people of the tribe must have with other living things and to develop the self-discipline within the tribal community so that man acts harmoniously with other creatures. The world that he experiences is dominated by the presence of power, the manifestation of life energies, the whole life-flow of a creation. Recognition that the human beings holds an important place in such a creation is tempered by the thought that they are dependent on everything in creation for their existence. There is not, therefore, that determined cause that Harvey Cox projects to subdue Earth and its living things. Instead the awareness of the meaning of life comes from observing how the various living things appear to mesh to provide a whole tapestry. Each form of life has its own purposes, and there is no form of life that does not have a unique quality to its existence. Shooter, a Sioux Indian, explained the view held by many tribal religions in terms of individuality as follows :

Animals and plants are taught by Wakan Tanka [Great Mystery] what they are to do. Wakan Tanka teaches the birds to make nests, yet the nests of all birds are not alike. Wakan Tanka gives them merely the outline. Some make better nests than others. In the same way some animals are satisfied with very rough dwellings, while others make attractive places in which to live. Some animals also take better care of their young than others. The forest is the home of many birds and other animals, and the water is the home of fish and reptiles. All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals, or human beings. The reason Wakan Tanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by Wakan Tanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.

To recognize or admit differences, even among the species of life, does not require then that human beings create forces to forge to gain a sense of unity or homogeneity. To exist in a creation means that living is more than tolerance for other life forms - It is recognition that in differences there is the strength of creation and that this strength is a deliberate desire of [the Great Mystery].

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Type & Archetype in Animals


Richard Owen, Vertebrae 'Archetype'

Later, in 1848, Owen distinguished between homologous and analogous organs. He defined a homologous organ as "the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function" whereas an analogous organ was "a part or organ in one animal which has the same function as another part or organ in a different animal." This means that, for example, the fins of fishes are homologous to the limbs of tetrapods while the wings of an insect and those of a bird are analogous. Owen made a further distinction between special homology and general homology. Special homology exists between corresponding organs in different organisms, as previously described. General homology, however, refers to the relation "in which apart or series of parts stands to the fundamental type." In the first case, it is the empirical or sensible forms of organs which are being compared. But, in general homology, empirical forms are compared to an ideal or invented form; the tertium quid that acts as intermediate between two things. Owen went as far as suggesting some ideal representations of vertebrae and archetypal skeletons.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

What Am I?

"I AM WHAT I AM." Never has domination found
such an innocent-sounding slogan. The maintenance
of the self in a permanent state of deterioration, in
a chronic state of near-collapse, is the best-kept
secret of the present order of things. The weak,
depressed, self-critical, virtual self is essentially that
endlessly adaptable subject required by the ceaseless
innovation of production, the accelerated obsolescence
of technologies, the constant overturning of
social norms, and generalized flexibility. It is at the
same time the most voracious consumer and, paradoxically,
the most productive self, the one that will
most eagerly and energetically throw itself into the
slightest project, only to return later to its original
larval state.

"WHAT AM I," then? Since childhood, I've been
involved with flows of milk, smells, stories, sounds,
emotions, nursery rhymes, substances, gestures,
ideas, impressions, gazes, songs, and foods. What am
I? Tied in every way to places, sufferings, ancestors,
friends, loves, events, languages, memories, to all
kinds of things that obviously are not me. Everything
that attaches me to the world, all the links that
constitute me, all the forces that compose me don't
form an identity, a thing displayable on cue, but a
singular, shared, living existence, from which
emerges-at certain times and places-that being
which says "1." Our feeling of inconsistency is simply
the consequence of this foolish belief in the permanence
of the self and of the little care we give to
what makes us what we are.

Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Lines of Flight

Empire rose in oasis, or river valleys caged by desert because there was a lack of any easy line of flight.

Imperial power is today, at its historical peak. The term Imperial is rooted in the verb imperō which means I command, give orders to, impose, demand. It is also composed of the Latin im and parō, which means to arrange, order, contrive, and design. Parō comes from the indo-european root per, as to be in front, to come before, to produce, procure, bring forward, bring forth. Im means inside, within, into, upon, but also against, relating to the prefix in. Therefore Imperial power should be understood, and evidently so, as that which both comes in front of or wants to produce a specific order, but also and in doing so, constantly acts against the coming into being of other orders. 

Imperialism's history has been one of, on the one hand, shutting down lines of flight from its vision of coming into being. On the other hand, it has been one of redirecting the wild, uncontrollable adaptability, power and new lines of flight released when it destroys or shuts down the free coming into being of other orders. Its symbolic and objective structural machinery evolves to harness and capture those very lines of flight as the primary source of power for the engines of accumulation. Therefore its 'cage' has come to resemble the opposite, a mirage of liberation, whose image and glow ease the fact of its distance, or whose potential existence elicits our desperate pursuit. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Imposter Syndrome

The only time we find any relief from our imposter syndrome is when we are deconstructing why we always have imposter syndrome... XXOO - Brendon Carlin

"A critical metaphysics could emerge as a science
of apparatuses . .. . " - Tiqqun

Thursday, February 16, 2023

On the Task of the Pedagogue

 Adelard of Bath's translation of Euclid's Elements, c. 1309–1316

The issue is to be subordinated to a priesthood of world makers, to a small cadre of cosmogonic bagpipers, to the operetta types, to the dark magicians; it is that inhabitants of a world have been distanced from an understanding of and from participation in design. To become subsumed in full belief of a fiction’s reality or naturalness (whether of the ancient or contemporary variety), is to be in total existential dependency and therefore be personal invested in its reproduction. It gives you the existences and their essences, the tools and their form of use or built-in constraints, and puts you in command of establishing your own presence; but with the very same gesture that you command, you are commanded. All of this has led us to the precipice of homogeneity, ecological collapse and total captivity. 

When one lives in clear relation and connection with those things that care for them and sustain them – they return the care and nurture them in return. They work on their relationships and can see themselves as both independent, and as part of the whole; as whole or complete. And though one might lose their 'presence' in the face of such wholeness, they might also catch a glimpse of being present without any properties, and be at home. But against the nothingness, we can build and practice a concrete, situated, direct cosmos, a form, a modus; we can construct a rhythm of relationships that tend as much as possible, towards beauty (as a world that can be inhabited). The task of the pedagogue then, is to initiate those who will inhabit a world, into being their own cosmogonic bagpipers. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Notes on Technic

According to Emanuele Severino, we can understand the nature of Technic by looking at its role within the contemporary world. Over the course of recent history, all the different political/ economic/religious systems competing against each other for global supremacy, invariably invested in the expansion of their technological apparatus as their main competitive edge. Consumed by the agonistic imperative to win, they promoted such expansion to the point that this eventually became their sole (and thus, paradoxically, shared) goal. The limitless expansion of the ability to put the world to productive work took over the world as its new destiny and, in so doing, erased all other ideological differences. What else is Technic as the essence of technology, but the spirit of absolute instrumentality, according to which everything is merely a means to an end - where the only ultimate end is, once again, the limitless expansion of the accumulated productive ability?

Differently from economic, political, ethical and religious forces - each of which aims at the production of a specific telos, to the exclusion of all other goals and forces - Technic, which they would like to use as a means, tends to constituting itself as a planetary apparatus that is increasingly free from the conflictual fractioning to which such forces attempt to reduce it; that is, Technic aims not to a specific and exclusive goal, but to the limitless increase in the ability to pursue goals, which is also the limitless ability to satisfy needs. It is thus inevitable that, in the conflictual situation in which those forces find themselves - that is, the situation where these are guided by the will to prevail on their adversaries through the strengthening of the instruments at their disposal, whose efficacy is determined by their technological and rational- scientific character - it is inevitable that such forces eventually renounce to their specific goals, exactly to avoid slowing down, limiting and weakening the limitless strengthening of their instrument - the scientific-technologic apparatus through which they intend to pursue their goal.

Emanuele Severino

In Spengler we saw Technic as the Faustian drive towards infinite uprooting and predation, in Jünger it was the force capable of mutating humans into the universal ‘type’ of the Worker, in Heidegger we observed it as the enframing that reveals the world as a stockpiling of standing-reserve ready to be mobilized for production and finally in Severino we encountered Technic also as a ‘destiny’ of the world and of everything that populates it. In other words, we began to see Technic as a powerful cosmogonic force, capable of taking over the very status of reality, and transform it according to its own principles.

Simondon presents technology essentially as a function lying at the core of what he calls the process of ‘individuation’. According to Simondon, a thing (any thing, from a crystal to a single person to large social groups) is never stably individuated as ‘that’ thing, but it is in a continuous process of actualization of its original, overflowing potential. As the process of individuation unfolds, we witness the procession of a long series of‘individuals’, each defined by the specific limits of its interaction with what constitute its surrounding at that particular stage. Beyond the actualized series of individuals, however, a boundless wealth of potentiality always lies unrealized. Within this system, technology functions essentially as the mediator between an individual and its surroundings: it is the very process through which an individual negotiates its own limits, and thus its own form, in the context of a mutual relation with the world around it. As such, technology is both a network of relations, and the very process of defining individuals. On the basis of this notion of technology and of individuation, Simondon claims that we should overcome the traditional opposition between culture and technology (as exemplified for example by Heidegger), in favour of a more holistic conception of the two fields as fundamentally interdependent. This position also goes to influence our interpretation of the present age, where we find technology in a state of alienation which is due only to culture’s reactionary rejection of its ‘true’ promiscuity with it. The monstrosities produced by industrial technology - for example in terms of human exploitation, total warfare and environmental devastation - are, for Simondon, just the consequence of our stubborn application of preindustrial logics to this new, fully industrial environment. If only we were to develop our understanding of technology in accordance to Simondon’s reinterpretation of it, the present situation would supposedly be overcome in favour of a reintegration of technology within culture, and of culture within technology. After all, if any individual is both its own technology and its own product, perhaps our real mistake lies in the very notion of technology as an autonomous field.

Federico Campagna 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The ‘Problem’ of Insubordination and Nihilism in Architecture and Production

Aldo Rossi, Palazzo, Fukuoka Japan

In his April 1974 “Radical Notes” column, Branzi reaffirms the Radical movement against the other two poles of the debate, orthodox modernism and the Tendenza: “The paradox is that while the Democratic-Socialists offer us an old model, the pseudo-Stalinists have offered an even older one. . . . The clash is between two possible revivals.”P19FIn his May column, Branzi establishes some differences between Rossi – whom he acknowledges as having proposed in the early 1960s a “logical foundation of architecture . . . to transfer it inside a scientific and autonomous system”P20FP – and his followers, who forgo the revolutionary potential of “neomonumentalism” by limiting themselves to the pursuit of an aesthetic quality that is, in the end, no more than a bourgeois myth. For Branzi, Rossi’s followers were “only little reactionaries frightened by the disciplinary vacuum.” In sharp contrast with the postulates of the Tendenza – which were based on the intensification of the architectural object, its typological character, and its communicative potential – Branzi poses a vision of the city where “today ‘architecture’ no longer exists: in the qualification of an enclosed space much greater importance is attributed to air-conditioning, and to the quality of the light and colors, than to the secret logical harmony governing the growth of the whole organism.” In this vision, the city becomes just a “usable structure,” and architecture, just a “theatrical impediment, an old and neurotic system of control.”

For him, the difference between these positions was more superficial than real, given that both shared a vision of architecture privileging the formal, the compositional, and the visual and that both were based on the cataloguing and use of outdated formal repertoires. These positions, therefore, were “both moving in a field of neo-eclecticism.” Branzi was convinced that modern architecture was exhausted and that the discipline was going through a deep crisis, themes that he had addressed his previous columns. The only way out was to focus on discovering the possibilities of the new situation: “The crisis in architecture cannot be resolved by choosing between two formal qualities, but by getting to the bottom of this crisis until we discover its roots in new mechanisms of production and in the end of the cultural role of the city, which has become a ‘service’ and no longer a ‘representative’ structure, ‘urban identity’ having been transferred to other media.”

- An Italian Querelle: Radical vs. Tendenza, Pablo Martínez Capdevila

Monday, February 6, 2023

Axiom 1: Non-typology and Magic

...But what would happen, if such emptiness was to become a more permanent state? What if, along the chain of catastrophes leading from one form of reality to the next, at some point the substitution was frozen at its most disconcerting moment, in full view? How could the characters keep acting, and what in the world could save them from paralysis, if the world (and not just their world) had disintegrated?

 Necessarily connected to the magic risk of losing one’s soul, is the other magic risk of losing the world. ...When a certain sensible horizon enters a crisis, the main risk is constituted by the crumbling of each and every limit: everything can become everything, that is to say: nothingness emerges. But magic ... intervenes to put a stop to the emerging chaos, and to resolve it into an order. Thus, from this angle, magic becomes a tool to restore horizons that have entered a crisis. And with the demiurgery that characterises it, it recuperates for the humans the very world that they were about to lose.

 As observed by de Martino, the disintegration of reality has to do with the dissolution of its limits, that is, of the internal bonds that constitute, not one specific reality, but reality as such. Variations in the arrangement of such bonds allow for the formation of different kinds of reality, but their altogether dissolution leads reality itself to disintegration. Later [...] we shall discuss at length what the indissoluble elements are that, together, allow for reality’s emersion from chaos. For now, suffice it to say that ‘reality’ is the name that we assign to a state in which the dimension of essence (what something is) and the dimension of existence (that something is) are inextricably bound to each other, without merging into one another.7 As different forms of essence and of existence alternate, and as their relationship varies over time, we witness the passage between successive forms of reality. But whenever one of the two overtakes the other, or denies its legitimacy, or severs the ties that connect them, or, even worse, when both of them vanish, then reality as such also effectively vanishes. Reality is a weave made of essence and existence, like warp and weft, and the event of its undoing requires a weaver (for de Martino, a ‘magician’) that is capable of interlacing the two back together, regardless of the specific forms and colours that each of them can take.

The feeling of an undoing of the fabric of reality is far from alien to our current experience of the world. Whether we interiorize it as psychopathology, or whether we attempt to detect its symptoms within contemporary culture, a ghostly presence haunts the age in which we live. It is no longer the old ‘uncanny guest’, the most familiar form of nihilism, that uproots and destroys specific cultural values referring to beauty or morality. Its sphere of action is no longer the stage, and its victims are not just the frail puppets of wood and cloth that traverse it. This is the age of metaphysical nihilism: the nihilism that sets the background on fire and undoes the very fabric of reality. Under its attack, ‘everything can become everything, that is to say: nothingness emerges’. The growing nothingness of things, and their equivalence, emerges as two facets of the same phenomenon. The combined annihilation of things’ full and autonomous existence, and their total transformation into sets of equivalent serial units, is at the heart of the contemporary process of transfiguration of the world into an impalpable cloud of equivalent financial units, digital data, chains of information, items of identification. Yet, it would still be insufficient to describe the effects of metaphysical nihilism as the substitution of a world of things with a world of empty names. Indeed, it is not just the case that ‘of the rose of old nothing remains but the name’, since names themselves have become translucent in their emptiness and equivalence: through them only shines the all-encompassing force of grammar. Once left unbound, grammar separates essences from existence, reduces the former to mere positioning within a syntactic series, and annuls the latter as unnecessary and spurious. What are ‘things’ nowadays, apart from signposts of the position they occupy within the productive syntax of technology, economics or societal norms? Like a novel reduced to pure grammar, the present age has shunned the question of meaning as a sign of superstition and nostalgia, while relegating reality to the status of an obsolete concept which is to be overcome if we wish to fully unleash our productive potential.

Federico Campagna - Technic and Magic

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Non-typological Architecture

Hiroshima, 1945

Non-typological Architecture is a category that refers to a tendency towards an absence of ideology, system, or science in architectural composition. Specific examples of architecture which make visible a tendency towards the non-typological, lack any obvious attempt to say (parlare), or do (as distributio) anything. They tend towards simple containers of blank space. Examples of architecture that manifest a tendency towards the Non-typological lay bare the inessential fact: that Man is the animal who has no nature, and will never be at home. Thus, Man is the animal who can ‘wilfully’ change its own essence and produce History.

A house with no plan, and no interior subdivisions is the perceivable aspect and consequence of now hegemonic ‘colonising,’ ‘rationalising’ forces that enframe life as a ‘standing reserve’ and accordingly ‘challenge’ into being narrow, instrumentalising forms of life, and relationships with other beings. An endless and accelerating expansion of production has also accelerated a process of de- and reterritorialisation, which exposes us to the raw blankness of this inessential fact. Just as quickly though, that blankness is buried in a phantasmagoria of futures and pasts; of everything that ever existed but no longer lives. Examples of housing that tend towards the Non-typological are particularly striking because housing has, until recently, been perceived as the space of one’s own, or of the family’s intimacy, privacy, and autonomy; the sphere of singular or unique forms of representation, identity, social relationships, and 'world.' The space in which a specific form of life takes shape and unfolds.

Furthermore, Non-typological architecture points to the fact that a system which always reache deeper and deeper with the means by which it calls or ‘challenges forth’ life and relationships as a ‘standing reserve’ for extraction is at its core, non-ideological. Via its emanation of abstractions, its proliferation of unreality, we are suspended in a state of real nihilism. Architecture that tends towards the non-typological is therefore ambivalent. On one hand, it makes visible or manifests the absolute foundation of human freedom and possibility, it manifests a clearing in history and the potential for an absolute turning point. On the other hand, if prolonged indefinitely or prolonged in frozen suspension, it indicates a capture in no-actuality, no-difference, and no-world.  

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Divine Governance and the End


The Annunciation, with St. Emidius (1486), Carlo Crivelli

First, by observation of things themselves: for we observe that in nature things happen always or nearly always for the best; which would not be the case unless some sort of providence directed nature toward good as an end; which is to govern. Wherefore the unfailing order we observe in things is a sign of their being governed . . . Secondly, this is clear from a consideration of Divine goodness, which . . . was the cause of the production of things in existence. For as it belongs to the best to produce the best, it is not fitting that the supreme goodness of God should produce things without giving them their perfection. Now a thing’s ultimate perfection consists in the attainment of its end. Therefore it belongs to the Divine goodness, as it brought things into existence, so to lead them to their end: and this is to govern.

De gubernatione mundi, Thomas Aquinas 1596

Governance and the Constraint of the Field of Action

Chavin de Huntar, Northern Andes, 3200 - 2700 BPE

"Government" did not refer only to political structures or to the management of states; rather, it designated the way in which the conduct of individuals or of groups might be directed: the government of children, of souls, of communities, of families, of the sick. It did not only cover the legitimately constituted forms of political or economic subjection but also modes of action, more or less considered or calculated, which were destined to act upon the possibilities of action of other people. To govern, in this sense, is to structure the possible field of action of others. The relationship proper to power would not, therefore, be sought on the side of violence or of struggle, nor on that of voluntary linking (all of which can, at best, only be the instruments of power), but rather in the area of the singular mode of action, neither warlike nor juridical, which is government. When one defines the exercise of power as a mode of action upon the actions of others, when one characterizes these actions by the government of men by other men-in the broadest sense of the term-one includes an important element: freedom. Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free. By this we mean individual or collective subjects who are faced with a field of possibilities in which several ways of behaving, several reactions and diverse comportments, may be realized.

- Michel Foucault, The Subject and Power

Religion, the Supernatural and Order

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined religion as a:

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

Alluding perhaps to Tylor's "deeper motive", Geertz remarked that

[…] we have very little idea of how, in empirical terms, this particular miracle is accomplished. We just know that it is done, annually, weekly, daily, for some people almost hourly; and we have an enormous ethnographic literature to demonstrate it.

The theologian Antoine Vergote took the term supernatural simply to mean whatever transcends the powers of nature or human agency. He also emphasized the cultural reality of religion, which he defined as

[…] the entirety of the linguistic expressions, emotions and, actions and signs that refer to a supernatural being or supernatural beings.

Peter Mandaville and Paul James intended to get away from the modernist dualisms or dichotomous understandings of immanence/transcendence, spirituality/materialism, and sacredness/secularity. They define religion as

[…] a relatively-bounded system of beliefs, symbols and practices that addresses the nature of existence, and in which communion with others and Otherness is lived as if it both takes in and spiritually transcends socially-grounded ontologies of time, space, embodiment and knowing.

According to the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions, there is an experiential aspect to religion which can be found in almost every culture:

[…] almost every known culture [has] a depth dimension in cultural experiences […] toward some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life. When more or less distinct patterns of behavior are built around this depth dimension in a culture, this structure constitutes religion in its historically recognizable form. Religion is the organization of life around the depth dimensions of experience—varied in form, completeness, and clarity in accordance with the environing culture.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Axioms and Barbarism

Jusepe de Ribera - Euclid - 2001.26 - J. Paul Getty Museum

"An axiom, postulate, or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Ancient Greek word ἀξίωμα (axíōma), meaning 'that which is thought worthy or fit' or 'that which commends itself as evident'.

The term has subtle differences in definition when used in the context of different fields of study. As defined in classic philosophy, an axiom is a statement that is so evident or well-established, that it is accepted without controversy or question. As used in modern logic, an axiom is a premise or starting point for reasoning.

The word axiom comes from the Greek word ἀξίωμα (axíōma), a verbal noun from the verb ἀξιόειν (axioein), meaning "to deem worthy", but also "to require", which in turn comes from ἄξιος (áxios), meaning "being in balance", and hence "having (the same) value (as)", "worthy", "proper". Among the ancient Greek philosophers, an axiom was a claim which could be seen to be self-evidently true without any need for proof."


Poverty of experience. This should not be understood to mean people are yearning for new experience. No, they long to free themselves from experience; they long for a world in which they can make such pure and decided use of their poverty – their outer poverty, and ultimately also their inner poverty – that it will lead to something respectable. Nor are they ignorant or inexperienced. Often we could say the very opposite. They have “devoured” everything, both “culture and people,” and they have had such a surfeit that it has exhausted them. No one feels more caught out than they by Scheerbart’s words: “You are all so tired, just because you have failed to concentrate your thoughts on a simple but ambitious plan.” Tiredness is followed by sleep, and then it is not uncommon for a dream to make up for the sadness and discouragement of the day – a dream that shows us in its realised form the simple but magnificent existence for which the energy is lacking in reality.

Barbarism? Yes, indeed. We say this in order to introduce a new, positive concept of barbarism. For what does poverty of experience do for the barbarian? It forces him to start from scratch; to make a new start; to make a little go a long way; to begin with a little and build up further, looking neither left nor right. Among the great creative spirits, there have always been the inexorable ones who begin by clearing a tabula rasa. They need a drawing table; they were constructors. Such a constructor was Descartes, who required nothing more to launch his entire philosophy than the single certitude, “I think, therefore I am.” And he went on from there. Einstein, too, was such a constructor; he was not interested in anything in the whole wide world of physics except a minute discrepancy between Newton’s equations and the observations of astronomy. And this same insistence on starting from the very beginning also marks artists when they followed the example of mathematicians and built the world from stereometric forms, like the Cubists, or modelled themselves on engineers, like Klee. For just like any good car, whose every part, even the bodywork, obeys the needs above all of the engine, Klee’s figure too seem to have been designed on the drawing board, and even in their general expression, they obey the laws of their interior. Their interior, rather than their inwardness; and this is what makes them barbaric.

Walter Benjamin, Experience and Poverty

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Action, Economy and Politics Have no Foundation in Being, but are Praxis


The Triumph of Divine Providence, 1633, Palace Barberini, Ceiling Fresco by Pietro da Cortona
The Triumph of Divine Providence, 1633, Palace Barberini, Ceiling Fresco by Pietro da Cortona

Just as a good father can entrust to his son the execution of certain functions and duties without in so doing losing his power and his unity, so God entrusts to Christ the ‘economy,’ the administration and government of human history.” Oikonomia therefore became a specialized term signifying in particular the incarnation of the Son, together with the economy of redemption and salvation (this is the reason why in Gnostic sects, Christ is called “the man of economy,” ho anthropos tes oikonomias). The theologians slowly got accustomed to distinguishing between a “discourse—or logos—of theology” and a “logos of economy.” Oikonomia became thereafter an apparatus through which the Trinitarian dogma and the idea of a divine providential governance of the world were introduced into the Christian faith. But, as often happens, the fracture that the theologians had sought to avoid by removing it from the plane of God’s being, reappeared in the form of a caesura that separated in Him being and action, ontology and praxis. Action (economy, but also politics) has no foundation in being: this is the schizophrenia that the theological doctrine of oikonomia left as its legacy to Western culture.


…oikonomia merges with the notion of Providence and begins to indicate the redemptive governance of the world and human history. Now, what is the translation of this fundamental Greek term in the writings of the Latin Fathers? Dispositio. The Latin term dispositio, from which the French term dispositif, or apparatus, derives, comes therefore to take on the complex semantic sphere of the theological oikonomia. The “dispositifs” about which Foucault speaks are somehow linked to this theological legacy. They can be in some way traced back to the fracture that divides and, at the same time, articulates in God being and praxis, the nature or essence, on the one hand, and the operation through which He administers and governs the created world, on the other. The term “apparatus” designates that in which, and through which, one realizes a pure activity of governance devoid of any foundation in being. This is the reason why apparatuses must always imply a process of subjectification, that is to say, they must produce their subject.

- Giorgio Agamben, What is an Apparatus 

The redemptive governance of subjects is what has been secularised and remains fully in force. In order for one to require redemption and salvation though, they must 'fall' into sin. The apparatuses are those that guarantee that we remain in sin but simultaneously provide the means via which we might achieve redemption and salvation. The reality that they want to conceal is the fact that we are always already saved.