Tag Archives: body

Affects, Bodies, Religions

Some people use affect theory to challenge the notion that religion is inextricably linked to belief and language, proposing instead that body and affect are more primary. It’s good to affirm bodies, feeling, emotions, affects, but that isn’t the way to do it. It’s a red herring, challenging a notion about belief that nobody really believes (i.e., the notion that religion is inextricably linked to language and belief). Continue reading


Cosmopolitics of Bodies: Participatory Ecologies

Still thinking of bodies, remembering Spinoza’s point that no one has yet determined what a body can do.  This is a crucial point for ontological accounts of bodies as well as for ethicopolitical interactions with bodies.  Don’t just create new determinations of what bodies are.  Create open situations for the activation of the virtual capacities harbored in the unfathomable indeterminacy of bodies.

Still thinking of bodies, colliding and colluding with the “participatory ecologies” of the distributed, complex, relational body articulated in Erin Manning’s new work of philosophical choreography, Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance (Duke, 2013), p. 110-122.

More-than its taking-form, “body” is an ecology of processes (and practices, as Isabelle Stengers might say) always in co-constellation with the environmentality of which it is part.  A body is a complex activated through phases in collision and collusion, phasings in and out of processes of individuation that are transformed—transduced—to create new iterations not of what a body is but of what a body can do.  What we tend to call “body” and what is experienced as the wholeness of a form is simply one remarkable point, one instance of a collusion materializing as this or that. [..] Continuity and discontinuity commingling to activate the singular in a field of difference. (p. 19)

The inventive task of the ecology of practices that Stengers calls “cosmopolitics” is not simply to map relations of difference, but to activate virtual singularities….

Singularities of the cosmos unite!

Catalogue of Bodies: Corpus-Oriented Ontology

In his Corpus (Fordham, 2008), Jean-Luc Nancy develops something like an object-oriented ontology.  Instead of an object or actor as the primary focus of his orientation, it is a body, a corpus, and instead of Latour litanies, he develops a catalogue.

Hoc est enim: this world-here, stretched out here, with its chlorophyll, its solar galaxy, its metamorphic rocks, its protons, its deoxyribonucleic double helix, its Avogadro number, it’s continental drift, its dinosaurs, its ozone layer, the stripes of its zebra, its human beast, Cleopatra’s nose, the number of petals on a daisy, the ghost of a rainbow, the style of Rubens, a python’s skin, André’s face in this photo taken on January 16, this blade of grass and the cow that grazes on it, the nuance of an iris in the eye of the one reading this very word, here and now? (p. 33).

…we’d need a corpus: a catalogue instead of a logos, the enumeration of an empirical logos, without transcendental reason, a list of gleanings, in random order and completeness, an ongoing stammer of bits and pieces, partes extra partes, a juxtaposition without articulation, a variety, a mix that won’t explode or implode, vague in its ordering, always extendable… (p. 53)

A corpus of tact: skimming, grazing, squeezing, thrusting, pressing, smoothing, scraping, rubbing, caressing, palpating, fingering, kneading, massaging, entwining, hugging, striking, pinching, biting, sucking, moistening, taking, releasing, licking, jerking off, looking, listening, smelling, tasting, ducking, fucking, rocking, balancing, carrying, weighing … (p. 93)

A corpus of the weighings of a material, of its mass, its pulp, its grain, its gulf, its mole, its molecule, its turf, its trouble, its turgidity, its fiber, its juice, its invagination, its volume, its peak, its fall, its meat, its coagulation, its paste, its crystallinity, its tightness, its spasm, its steam, its knot, its unknotting, its tissue, its home, its disorder, its wound, its pain, its promiscuity, its odor, its pleasure, its taste, its timbre, its resolution, its high and low, right and left, its acidity, its windedness, its balancing, its dissociation, its resolution, its reason … (p. 99)

A world where the body is squeezed, febrile, fibrillated, engorged, engorging on its own proximity, all bodies in a promiscuity thick with microbes, pollutions, defective serums, excessive fat, and grinding nerves, obese, emaciated, ballooning, vermin-mined, cream-smeared, burning, gleaming, toxin-stuffed, losing their materials, their waters, turning to gas in the vomit of war or famine, nuclear infection or viral irradiation. (p. 103)

…places are just so many spasms, rubbings, viral and bacterial swirls, gasolating bodies, immunitary bodies, immuno-depressors, in an indefinite reticulation of sequence-bodies, message-bodies, dissolving, coagulating, contaminating, replicating, cloning, breaking, streaking, biting, the whole chemical, archi-chemical corpus, an overpopulation of acidic, ionized psyches, bristling with the blind signals of a world of bodies in which bodies, identically, decompose the world. (p. 105)

Hoc est enim corpus meum

a whole new poetry beginning here

Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow-colored shells….
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance —
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright, silk against roughness,
pulling the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care….

—Adrienne Rich
from “Transcendental Etude”

Adoration, Anniversary

My first post on this blog went up one year ago today.  It had something to do with thinking after postmodernism and postsecularism.  Today, that’s still what my practice of thinking is after.  Today, I’m in the middle of Jean-Luc Nancy’s second installment in his deconstruction of Christianity, Adoration.  It follows an opening of Christianity, exposing its various theisms to the open sense of the world, and sheltering its exposure without replacing it with another “-ism” (including atheism, humanism, rationalism, irrationalism, etc.).  It warms my heart, opens my body…   

Adoration is addressed to what exceeds address.  Or rather: it is addressed without seeking to reach, without any intention at all.  It can accept to not even be addressed: to be unable to aim, or designate, or recognize the outside to which it is dispatched.  It can even be unable to identify it as an outside, since it takes place here, nowhere else, but here in the open.  Nothing but an open mouth, or perhaps an eye, an ear: nothing but an open body.  Bodies are adoration in all their openings. (20) 

There is not even “atheism”; “atheist” is not enough!  It is the positing of the principle that must be emptied.  It is not enough to say that God takes leave, withdraws, or is incommensurable.  It is even less a question of placing another principle on his throne–Mankind, Reason, Society.  It is instead a question of coming to grips with this: the world rests on nothing–and this is its keenest sense. […] Let there be no more place for God–and in this way, let an opening, which we can disucss elsewhere whether to call “divine,” open. (32-33)


Learning to Swim with Deleuze

The movement of the swimmer does not resemble that of the wave, in particular, the movements of the swimming instructor which we reproduce on the sand bear no relation to the movements of the wave, which we learn to deal with only by grasping the former in practice as signs.  That is why it is so difficult to say how someone learns: there is an innate or acquired practical familiarity with signs, which means that there is something amorous—but also something fatal—about all education.  […]

When a body combines some of its own distinctive points with those of a wave, it espouses the principle of a repetition which is no longer that of the Same, but involves the Other—involves difference, from one wave and one gesture to another, and carries that difference through the repetitive space thereby constituted.  To learn is indeed to constitute this space of an encounter with signs, in which the distinctive points renew themselves in each other, and repetition takes shape while disguising itself. […]

To learn to swim is to conjugate the distinctive points of our bodies with the singular points of the objective Idea in order to form a problematic field.  This conjugation determines for us a threshold of consciousness at which our real acts are adjusted to our perceptions of the real relations, thereby providing a solution to the problem.  Moreover, problematic Ideas are precisely the ultimate elements of nature and the subliminal objects of little perceptions.  As a result, ‘learning’ always takes place in and through the unconscious, thereby establishing the bond of a profound complicity between nature and mind.

Gilles Deleuze, Difference and repetition, trans. Paul Patton. (Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 23, 165.

(Re)Introducing Aristotle, 2: Life and Soul

In a previous post, I started (re)introducing some of the basics of Aristotle, focusing on his view of nature (phusis) and thinghood (ousia), showing how the cosmos can be understood as an individual thing that is in motion—material swinging from form to form.  In other natural bodies, the movement of material to form is characterized by growth, self-nourishment, and wasting away.  Aristotle defines such bodies as living bodies (On the Soul [Joe Sachs, trans.] 412a12).  Aristotle investigates the nature and thinghood of living bodies by way of an investigation on the soul (psyche), “since the soul is in some way the governing source of living things” (402a6).  Like his investigation into nature, the opening of the investigation concerning the soul responds to the thought of Aristotle’s predecessors, which for the most part supposes the soul to be an elemental body or composed of elemental bodies (403b20).

In the second book of his investigation concerning the soul, Aristotle offers his definition of the soul, which follows from his understanding of nature and natural bodies.  Just as natural bodies have thinghood as composites of material and form, so too do living natural bodies (412a15).  The body (soma) is what the independent thing is called that underlies the growth and decay it endures.  The body, then, is underlying material having potential for life.  The body has no further thing underlying it.  Therefore, the soul (psyche)—the cause of life in the body—is not a material body, but is the being-at-work and form of a material body (412a20).  Like the being-at-work of the form of natural bodies, the being-at-work of the soul is the being-at-work-staying-itself of the living body.  The soul, then, is what a body keeps on being in order to be at all (to ti en einai), and this is the thinghood of the body as it is revealed in speech (ousia he kata ton logon) (412b10).

The living, or ensouled, body is distinguished from non-living bodies by the presence of one or more of the following potencies of the soul: intellect, perception, movement with regard to place, and nutrition (414a30).  A plant has share in the nutritive (threptike) part of the soul, which manages the work of growth and nutrition.  Growing and living are the being-at-work-staying-itself that is the thinghood of the plant.  The soul of the plant is the form that actively maintains itself.

Animals also share in this nutritive potency of the soul.  However, animals also possess the perceptive (aisthetike) potency of the soul, and some animals are also capable of moving themselves with respect to place.  Furthermore, some animals have the capacity to reason and think things through (415a).  The way in which an animal’s senses are directed and attuned to the sensible world is a kind of ratio or rationality (426b5).  However, this does not mean that animal thinking is identical with the kind of thinking proper to humans.

Aristotle distinguishes two types of thinking: imagining and conceiving (opining or knowing) something to be the case (427b30).  Imagination differs from perception in that a sensible thing need not be present to the senses for it to be imagined, although it must have some connection to sensibility.  What appears to the imagination is sometimes true, but not in the way that knowledge is true; and it is sometimes false, but not in the way an opinion or belief is false (428a).  Opinion and knowledge only belong to the animal capable of speech, the human—the rational animal (zoion logon echon).

The part of the soul that conceives of things—the intellect (nous)—is completely receptive of the forms of those things it apprehends (429a15).  This receptiveness of form is present in greater degrees from formed material to the different potencies of the soul.  Just as the nutritive, motile, and perceptive potencies are open to the presence of nutritious, distant, and perceptible things in their formed material, so the intellect is open to the presence of intelligible things.

Whereas the percept and the perceiver are not the same during the act of perception (since the percept is sensed in its material aspect, which is apart from the perceiver), the intelligible is one with the intellect in the being-at-work of contemplation.  Being-at-work-staying-itself, thinking is the same as and what is thought (Metaphysics 1074b35).  Free of dependency on sensibility, the being-at-work-staying-itself of intellect is the original cause of all motion and being.  Aristotle calls this original cause God (1072b).

The contemplative intellect is that form toward and from which all matter stretches.  Potent material bodies are always reaching for contemplative intellect, which is always at-work, staying itself, untouched, attracting material toward itself.  Natural bodies have their thinghood ultimately in the eternal being-at-work-staying-itself of contemplative intellect.  These bodies keep being themselves by essentially swinging, stretching from and toward nous—the psyche of the cosmos.