Doubling Down: Doing Deconstruction During Derrida’s Death

I’m doubling down on doing deconstruction, and apparently I’m doubling down on that phrase, “doubling down,” which I already said once (too much) in the title and have now used way too much at this point. I promise not to use it again here, but the excess is part of my point: an exercise in exorbitance, a propensity for verbosity…it’s all part of what draws me to deconstruction. There is something about the double movement, speaking in two directions at the same time, writing in a way that avoids the temptation to resolve ambiguity and paradox into something easily digested by normal opinion (doxa). That is stylistically interesting, like the apophatic rhetoric used in mysticism and negative theology. But it’s not only a matter of style. It’s never merely style for mystics and theologians either. The simultaneously inventive and destructive movement of deconstruction discloses something about wisdom, about the way things really are, about the basic orientation around which philosophy takes place. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Continue reading

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Testing the Boundaries of Reality

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Forum at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.  I spoke about some of the research I used for my dissertation (Philosophy for a Planetary Civilization: On the Verge of Integral Ecology), which I defended last March.  A video of the talk is available HERE.  I was introduced by Matt Segall, who recently posted some summary reflections on the talk.

Like many talks I give, the style is mostly improvisational.  Nonetheless, my meandering musings elicited some thoughtful questions and comments from the people in attendance, making about half of the video Q&A.  I’m not going to summarize the presentation here, but I will state my gratitude for the various criticisms I’ve received.

Those criticisms include the following:

1) My critique of AT&T’s “Rethink Possible” slogan didn’t account for the full history of AT&T.  This was by far my favorite criticism.  AT&T is a weird entity with a complex history.

2) My interpretation of Platonic dualism didn’t do justice to the elements of Plato’s writings that subvert dualism and pervert the very idea of Platonism.

3) My espousal of rhizomatics might not be effective in countering the interconnected flows of global capitalism.

4) Aside from an injunction to tarry with complexity and uncertainty, my philosophical experiments do not give very specific guidance on questions of ethics, politics, and practical action.

5) My focus on the humor of truth (Isabelle Stengers’ concept for a critical standpoint from which to recognize the limits of one’s theories) did not adequately account for the many other ways of recognizing the limits of one’s theories (e.g., humility, imagination).

6) Perhaps the strangest criticism I heard is that my emphasis on humor makes me impervious to criticism or somehow difficult to criticize.  I’m happy to accept that criticism, especially insofar as I sometimes tell jokes instead of responding directly to questions.  However, I think I’m generally quite vulnerable and available to criticism.  Indeed, humor (following Stengers) was presented precisely as a means to stay open to criticism, not as a hipster strategy for being ironic and, like, whatevs.  Furthermore, as indicated by each of these six criticisms, some people found it quite easy to criticize my points and positions.

Too Much: Excess

I’m very sympathetic to the critique of consumerism and market fundamentalism given by Clive Hamilton and Richard Deniss in their 2005 book Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough.  However, their critique throws the exorbitantly excessive baby out with the consumerist bathwater.  They’re upset about how much people desire more and more and much too much.  Environmentalists and critics of capitalism often emphasize much needed limits and regulations without paying enough attention to the need for multiple forms of transgression, expansion, extravagance. 

An ethicopolitical response to contemporary ecological and economic challenges must engage the astonishing complexity of limits, whereby limits are constitutively entangled with their transgression.  Abundance abounds, scarcity overflows.    

From Bataille’s perspective […] there is always too much rather than too little, given the existence of ecological (“natural”) and social (“cultural”) limits.  The “end” of humankind, its ultimate goal, is thus the destruction of this surplus. […] Bataille emphasizes the maintenance of limits and survival as mere preconditions for engaging in the glorious destruction of excess.  The meaning of the limit and its affirmation is inseparable from the senselessness of its transgression in expenditure (la dépense).
—Allan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability [University of Minnesota Press, 2007), p. 45]

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. […] Exuberance is Beauty. […] Enough! or Too much.
—William Blake

You took too much.  You’re about to explode.  Jesus, look at your face! […] The first rush is the worst.  Just ride the bastard out.
—Dr. Gonzo

Too much is never enough.
—MTV (one of many slogans)