Thoughts after Reading a Chapter on the Philosophy of Language

We should not use ‘belief’ loosely, as if certain statements’s truth value depended entirely on cultural values and all of the emplacing phrases like ‘conceptual schemes’ and ‘web of beliefs’ for their becoming/being true or false. Something is not *made true by one’s believing it, something else is going on with the word belief. The import of the word ’belief’ comes from religion and the repetitive affirmation technique imbued in people during a particular historical periods and geographical locations. The practice of individualizing affirmation that the subject is made to express in public, private, and in dialogue according to prescribed rituals has as much to do with the meaning of the word ’belief’ as it does with forming subjects who are then led to thinking that they must confirm sentences into truthhood. The subject-object distinction is as much a product of these processes as it is a constant structure of language and sentence creation. The intensifying of religious practices has done nothing to subvert this basic function of meaning creation, it has only made us turn about from one side to the other in hopes that one day we will form a unified theory that is held steady from top to bottom. Continue reading “Thoughts after Reading a Chapter on the Philosophy of Language”

More Thoughts in Response to Levi Bryant

This time from his latest God and Mythico-Poetic Thought.

Rather than reject religion outright, how about rejecting the monotheism that requires inward directed souls/subjects to declare their belief in a perfect God? The internalized desire of the believer-subject is reproduced as well in Descartes who then can split himself from the external world of “Nature”, which is then in turn reproduced in the discourse of naturalist science. Both science and religion contain in their theories an ideal observer distinct from the external world; in one case an omnipresent God, in the other a complete world both external to the believer and total at once. Physics too has its religious pretensions in that elusive quest for the theory of everything.

The problem as I see it is rather in conceiving Nature as a whole and not working through its persistent aporias. We’re it not demanded to achieve a theory of Nature that matches or replaces a belief in Everything, scientists could be seen as producing accurate measurements without being hounded by deniers for being “just a theory”.

The mythico-poetic is of a different form than religions which force subjects to believe in a god. It is more like a background of cultural signifiers which make meaningful discourse possible just as much as the “wiredness” of our bodies. They contain many creation myths that do not explain in the same way as an individual explaining a foundational belief because they provide a foundational background for a common, shared cultural imagination.

The distinction I am drawing here is between subjective-belief in The universe and universes of symbolic reference as diverse as their are isolated cultures. This is possibly an ontological distinction, perhaps pertaining to the ground needed to have the the figure of a belief in general. I’m thinking now of the function of “the full body of the earth, the cosmic egg” in Deleuze and Guattari’s 3rd chapter of Anti-Oedipus. It plays the role of a territorial beginning from which flows and codings then implement primordial inscription. Still a rough draft of an interpretation of a massive work though.

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On Levi Bryant’s ‘Axioms for a Dark Ontology’

Levi Bryant has drawn up a brief manifesto of a nihilist reflection on the world and life’s place in the one and only world as a mere accident. His materialism in the matters of human belief brings forth succinctly and strikingly a conception of the world as void that is reminiscent of Lucretius. World here functions as a pure void, an empty space on which the dance of matter takes place. This distinction of matter and world seems to recreate the full/empty binary which then is grafted on to existence as a whole, or, the universe. The manifesto is well worth a read and long contemplation, as well as a follow up from arranjames.
http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/axioms-for-a-dark-ontology/
http://attemptsatliving.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/levi-bryants-axioms-for-a-dark-ontology/

But must we abide by these terms and this conceptual framework? The world conceived as it is here is doomed from the start to void and nothingness, which is clearly the only conclusion that could follow from this conceptual treatment. When imagining the world as a single unified place (and this must be an exercise in the imagination, or perhaps an intellectual excursus within a conceptual model), it could not possibly be full and perfectly meaningful to the point of which a perfectly understood significance could give cultural actors access to it. The world is at once occupying the figure and the ground, holding both the indisputable ’thereness’ of existence as object and also the setting, place, or environment upon which all objects dwell. Lying within this word is the collapsed distinction which at first allows for a meaningful object to become a thing under consideration with its own properties, tendencies, structures, and relations to other objects. An object must always ’be’ amidst a backdrop, a backdrop which tries to attain distinctly objective status as a cognizant thing when the unification meant for an object is “outsourced” to its own ground.

This linguistic movement of a binary opposition (figure/ground) is accompanied by the enormous successes of scientific institutions which have brought along with them a discourse rife with philosophical undertones of disinterested objectivism. However, these matters are largely ignored by today’s scientists and left to the “lofty intellectuals” so they can do their work of infinite knowledge production in their secure, unchallenged ’world’. Their experiments, results, and the method so fruitful in producing useful technologies for their nations do indeed prove themselves over and over again to be of great worth. Though the dis-coveries of these material things in their patterned movement can lay claim to truth in the minimally predictive sense, when science moves to theory and, either consciously or unconsciously, harkens back to the beginnings of science in the certainty, finality, and universality it must (if sincerity and honesty is given to the words and concepts with which they construct those theories) admit to itself that it is engaging in philosophy. Recourse is always given to a history of actors, experimenters, and observers that carry science from one new mode to the next, and the unifying thread of science does indeed have a history that goes as far back as when ’physics’ was called ’natural philosophy’.

Bringing up the paradoxes and entanglements of science with regards to the nihilistic refusal of meaningful belief in the world is can be of some utility here since it problematizes both subjective commitment and disinterested (supposedly non-subjective) knowledge. If the separation of subject and object would be held apart so firmly, the subject would be forced to have as its object of conscious adherence (ideology if you want) the forced choice between a foundational social/ego or bare objects/things. I believe things are more complicated and intertwined along with Merleu-Ponty. The reflective and inward-folding that a solitary writer is privy to can be also recognized as an object in the “mind-space” so as to balance the linguistic relationship. A sentence that makes sense, written down or spoken between those within a common discourse must be the result of an actor in a performance – and on a stage. Ideas are inextricable in thinking about the world and any of its particular objects and we must place them some*where* – as we must do with objects, placing them in the world. However, when the object tries to become its own ground, to take over the whole stage as it were, we get an idea that attempts to both produce its own existence and declare for itself nothing at all.

This is an extremely important topic, since I have both flirted with nihilism and remain very open to the Spinozist-Lucretian-Nietzsche Delueze thread that treats nothingness as nothing (as a mere linguistic nothing and not a source of creation or attachment). This all set within the problem of global warming and the threat of ecological collapse which I want to hold out as avoidable. There is so much still yet to be done.

Having gone this far into the labyrinth of theory I should make something clear: these thoughts gave been germinating in my mind for quite some time now from various sources. But those consistent bloggers have made it seem like there was a community of participants willing to read what I wrote and I owe you all thanks for inspiring me to experiment with this mode of expression. It is very strange indeed having so many ideas floating around both the Internet and my face to face encounters and this reassures me that I am onto the right track with regard to the topics, even if the content is disputable. A great deal of my influence has come from reaching out into other spheres and keeping running debates with friends and fellow autodidacts, but blogs allow rough thought to just “get out there” and be seen. The books that I’m drawing from in this piece which I haven’t yet been able to make good enough essays about yet are Cornelius Castoriadis’s Crossroads in the Labyrinth (a staggering work of theoretical genius), Robert Pogue Harrison’s Forests, and Deleuze’s Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. I’ll get around to coming up with more substantial works on these books soon since they have been so educational and I want to share.

As a teaser: the social actor is inextricably bound up with yet opposed to Nature. Nature is less a world than it is a labyrinth. The place, region, or territory is neither neutral or empty. The place of nature (seeing as it is that the social must juxtapose with nature) is the forest.

Critical Fantasies: First Attempt at a Manifesto

Critical Fantasies are a mixture of critical philosophy and a retelling of poplar stories that are made by deep analysis to serve as current day myths. The stories are selected from the cultural field with the criteria that they contain pertinent ideas or operations which can be extracted and elucidated in a conceptual manner. This conceptual exercise will encourage readers to more actively examine cherished fantasies and put into focus a transversal message from the fantasy to themselves – all the more relevant for coming from the realm of the imaginary. This intentional activity of blending fantasy and philosophy will revitalize meaning in the world by eliminating the intellectual pretension towards representing *the* world (considered in the singular) and finding meaning in moving between a plurality of fictional worlds.

The difference between philosophy and poetics, science and fantasy, or reality and fiction is not collapsed but maintained. The duality is impressed upon the reader while simultaneously, a multiplicity of worlds prevents any one world or any pair of worlds from claims to perfection. Instead of moving from one unreal world to the real world, there are many to hop around to; only wherever on begins from or ends up is always fictional. The multiplicity worlds, connected by their rejection of representation, will subvert claims to the divine authority of any one story. Many worlds are potentially inhabitable, each offering various messages. The stories of these worlds are given a fresh interpretation in being retold, but inso doing a message is released and made more explicit. Critical Fantasies translate idea kernels from the enchanting myth that the narrative invokes and in those ideas point beyond them. Examining this message conceptually will provoke the reader to in turn reexamine their own favorite fantasies in a way that draws out a meaningful lesson or truth beyond the particular fantasy world.

Far from being devoid of meaning or a source of believability, we have multiple fantasies within our cultures from which purpose, guidance, and significance can be discovered. They merely require a critical perspective with which to interpret them in moving beyond their fictional worlds. The fantasies across the cultural spectrum are many and diverse; some can be revelatory, creating an fervent attachment not so far off from belief. Crossing the world gap serves this function, but no story takes primary status over another – even if there is a favorite. A fantasy affirms its other-worldly quality without demanding precedence over any other save for the impact it has, the impression it leaves. The plurality of fantasies is only a hindrance if equality is demanded between the construction and “reality”, instead of having a higher degree of potency. The acceptance of their own unreality can only be a benefit.

Though separate realms, neither pure philosophy nor fiction can endure without the other. Indeed, philosophers have always tended to make use of myths and stories (in the form of illustrated examples, diagrams, thought experiments etc.) while every captivating narrative involves something conceptual. The themes, motifs, and characters of works of fiction become a repeatable talking point which can be crystallized in an idea. A source of wonder comes from their interplay; the fantasy requires an implicit trick of falsehood shared by both the author and audience, philosophy requires a commitment to truth and honest inquiry amidst incessant illusion and dogma. The selection of the story and the selection of the concepts with which to cross-connect will function as the creative production: in reinterpreting popular and exciting fantasies with a critical eye, the ideas projected will be illuminated and updated as well as recontextualized. Critique will not take place over and above the story but within it, offering up ideas that will inspire thought from not just an exclusively mythical or philosophical perspective but with a mutual reinforcement. This performance will necessitate inhabiting the plurality of imagined worlds while simultaneously pushing their topics and devices beyond it. Critical Fantasies are an inherently pluralistic construction.

The works of fantasy will be chosen by their critical capacity from the outset; or, the work chosen already possesses the critical power to change, provoke, inspire the audience/player within it. The mining of it from a critical-philosophical angle only serves to make its impact more forceful and its message more obvious. Each interpretation or commentary of anything from anyone will add to or alter its meaning, but the choice of candidates for a critical fantasy by itself indicates that the work contains a message that resonates beyond its world. The stories that endure in history, that have that “timeless” quality endure for a reason that exceeds its own comprehension. A critical focus on those ideas that endure past the world from which they originated discovers more than just a cold concept: it finds advice, it finds wisdom. Criticism will not be of the particular world of fantasy itself as a fantasy (its illusory, negative, or unreal quality) but come from that work and direct its latent critical capacity outward, approaching the threshold of its world as a fantasy world.

This endeavor can be called critical in three senses of the word:

First, inhabiting fantasies gives one a meaningful if incorporeal world of signification from which to base a judgment on something outside of it. By self-consciously remaining within its interpretive zone, its (illusory) hermeneutic circle, criticism can then appear to be launching outward, though the representative target remains transfixed within the fantasy zone as a concept. A world of significance is found from which critique can situate itself. This mixes an awareness of limitations with a feeling of transcendence. Second, criticism attempts to approach a condition where a body is forced to exceeded the outer limits, no longer being able to contain the force originating within the border. Critical Fantasies reach for a critical mass which overflows in its fantastic resonance. Floating between crossing the threshold and remaining at the border, these fantasies suggest a break-through that is impossible because of their self-conscious falsity. They nonetheless make the suggestion, implying a leap all the more tempting for being impossible. Third, critical inquiry necessitates close scrutiny to specific areas within the subject considered. The ideas under examination are intensified by the attention payed to them within an uncommon sphere. Dwelling on certain isolated ideas in a strange place casts a spell of significance and importance, majestic by being both fantasy and under fixated examination.

Critical theory takes on big subjects and claims to further political goals by engaging with dominant ideologies. The title ‘Critical Fantasies’ also reminds one that action in a meaningful ethical-political sense does not occur within the confines of a text or a video screen. Critical theory interprets texts and techniques closely, bringing them to their limit in hopes that this symmetry-breaking motion will be reflected elsewhere. However, the going-beyond of critical analysis, the breaking things open and/or extending them outward can only operate non-textually by addressing this world-gap. Critique can undermine beliefs, opinions, and assumptions by making them argumentatively untenable, but strong forces back those frames and institutionalized power relations stabilize them. By joining the fantastic with the critical, all pretensions to subversion emanating directly from the narrative are abandoned and immediate direct action is to be found elsewhere. Fantasy knows this about itself: it is not real. It is like Socrates who knows only that he knows nothing. Fantasy affirms its falsity. This is a relief though; the distance fantasies hold onto puts the specter of action and conversely the dogmatism of representation in another world altogether with respect to each other. Incommensurable with the present and its accompanying “here and now”, fantasy nevertheless does not forget this “other”; for in the persistence of approaching what it is not, fantasy cannot rid itself of its relation with the present, however confrontational and problematic that relationship might be. Fantasy holds onto action in the present but at a distance, a distance spanning worlds.

Fantasy sets limits on what it can do in the substantial material world – the indirectness from which it must relate to it – and continues along in its negative constrictions regardless. Fixing that material world at the outside, a fantasy world is able to play endlessly with the boundaries its willful negation sets. Indirect Critical Fantasies – Direct Action. The imagination is stretched always apart as it is forever tasked with coming to terms with its own nothingness; all the while, it cannot shake the feeling that whatever is produced, whatever piece of work the imagination creates, is somehow bound up with that other thing – matter. Neither purely false nor purely representative, fantasy moves forward in playful ambivalence.

To reflect on these aesthetic productions brimming with joyful negation, to analyze these current day myths, criticism is brought to bear on the scene – but this is no synthesis. The momentum or force of fantasies are left in tact (not that one could do anything to prevent that) but an outside line joins with it that blows up certain moments, placing a greater emphasis on the ideas of critical importance for other worlds not of its own. A concentration is built up around those flashes of wonder where something seems to jump out of its worldly confines.

Critical Fantasies put together two irreducible forces and create an entirely new non-holistic production. Neither a combination of the two nor a sublimation of them into a higher thing, it sets familiar work of art in fantasy into a different rhythm. The moments of highest intensity are given an additional push bringing it closer to the outside of its world and establishing resonance. Critical Fantasies are always found in a polarizing situation: with an understanding that they are limited to their fictional worlds of significance, they select those aspects that come the closest to breaching their worldly limits and making a connection outside of them.

I believe that people by and large already make use of fantasies in this way. What is most often missing in them and what I aim to inject is the rigor of a critical philosopher. The potential in this unholy alliance seems vast and within the care of the right hands could intensify a largely apathetic population with awesome and innumerable fantasies at its disposal. Fantasy stories in their highest moments have replaced the divine revelation as our source of ethical energy. These are those empowering moments when a vital surge breaks out like a geyser. This is when epic wins become possible, and epics always start in the middle. They don’t always end well though. It is in attempting to begin from solid ground like a tautology, as well as end in a secure and harmonious goal that we lose sight of the urgent task. Fantasies cannot provide perfectly clear answers as to what is to be done, but when it comes to teachings and inspiration, they are the best we’ve got. At the very least, their internalized negativity wards off dogmatic faith. Together with the sustained focus of criticism, fantasies can at best nudge us in the right direction.

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Simon Critchley’s Faith of the Faithless Talk

This is a wonderful talk from Simon Critchley about contemporary politics and the allure of utopian projects. I watched it many times and had its ideas at the forefront of my mind while occupying.

That first line (after the German) resounds with truth: “We are living through a long anti-1960’s”.

The Nothing in Belief: Simon Critchley’s Faith of the Faithless Part 2

In a brief sketch of the work as a whole, Simon Critchley states his idea about faith and, I am tempted to say, his belief about belief.  This meta-claim of his is that only those who doubt their faith can have it.  Only those placed in the uncomfortable position of lacking a guarantee of their affirmation can have faith.  Only those who are in a position of weakness and *subjection* (by another) can be truly ethical subjects: “[F]aith is the enactment of the self in relation to an infinite demand that both exceeds my power and yet requires all my power” (p.18).  A subject, a self, is only what it is in relation to a demand that it act or believe this way or that.  Not a source in itself, something beyond the self pushes it, compelling it and driving it.

 Yet a great many of us now see this beyond now as a fiction, an illusion with its own manipulative designs.  To make an affirmation out of a something one cannot in good conscience believe would be dishonest, we crave the truth when we place our faith in something.  The trick is to find the energizing affirmation of the act of believing and couple that with the nihilistic disillusionment accompanying the loss of a believable transcendent being.  “The faith of the faithless cannot have for its object an external to the self or subject, any external, divine command, or transcendent reality” (p.4) says Critchley, because such an object lacks the rigor we demand today for believability due largely to the giant successes of the skeptical-scientific method (my analysis).  But such an object is not necessary for a work of faith and even a commitment to the other person in front of us – right over there – is a commitment of faith. The declaration of faithlessness and the basic denial of atheists and rationally minded individuals then goes too far too fast: faith appears in moments of trust, friendship, and collective (and individual) action.  Critchley’s “faith – as fidelity to the infinite demand – is not just shared by the denominationally faithless or unbelievers, but can be experienced by them in an exemplary way” (p.18).  This is a broad interpretation of faith and allows one without a definite belief a chance to partake in a empowering modes of resistance without compromising one’s integrity.
Critchley turns to Rousseau early on to get an articulation of belief in the context of a politically relevant civic attachment from a sovereign individual.  The individual citizen here in Rousseau constitutes the public by its freely made consent.  The public sphere, to be the legitimate will of it’s people and so be worthy of the name, must answer to the voluntary consent of those individual citizens in a non-representational assembly.  The paradox running through Rousseau is his insistence on the identification of the individual with the public at large meaning the sovereignty of each citizen is respected and present in the movement of the general public (as opposed to represented by another body).  In the state of nature, the essential goodness of the sovereign individual is unimpeded; to harness that goodness after entering civilization, the individual will must align non-coercively with the public.  Present not re-present.
 The problem now becomes one of consensus or agreement of all as a fulfillment of the unity of the people.  I won’t spend any time defending the claim that such consensus is fictional: disagreement, diversity, and deviance are facts of existence.  But stopping there blocks out what motivates liberal democratic politics, why people believe in it, and identify as citizens with real political power.  The act of giving into the general will, of agreeing with popular sentiment and participating in a consensus process with consensus as a goal is formative, it creates a subject or self out of the fiction of a equalizing and complete social whole.  The social contract is “not a contract based on an exchange between parties, but an act of constitution, a fictive constitution, where a people wills itself into existence” (p.40).  Both the ’subject’ and the ’people’ are fictions that depend on each other for their continued existence to keep either one from straying to far away and becoming alienated.  To proclaim public consensus and autonomous individuality to be fictions is true but together they form a subject into creation; a subject built around a facade but one that is a better equipped and more effective machine.
 This discourse on the sovereignty of the individual and the public good is thoroughly embedded in our culture and cannot be tossed away (if one were to wish it).  The positing of my being as an individual is only possible as an intense oscillation between two fictions, a negative negativity which then becomes a positive nothing.  One can still hold that real entities do exist regardless of one’s fantasies and historical conditioning but what Critchley is getting at here is the faith informing a *politically effective* body with subjects that move together as its parts.  The crux of such a body as it is communicated and believed by its subjects is “the fiction of popular sovereignty understood as association without representation, which is, for Rousseau – and I think he is right – the only form of legitimate politics that can face and face down the fact of gross inequality and the state of war” (p.89).  From a realist point of view, the body held together by a fiction is a more capable and effective force due to its ability to mobilize a large mass of bodies into a common faithful front.  The public commons must be believed in to exist, but it must exist for there to be a subject to make or hold a belief in it.
 This can be made clearer when one visualizes the bombardment of fantastic objects and cleverly designed slogans and images pervading our culture.  These advertisements and other media don’t just tell people (by coerce or persuasion) how to be unique and “their own person” but are formative – they create persons.  Even more than that, these categories and stereotypes paint a picture of society that is roughly accurate.  More so than ever a subject’s identity given a vast array of types of individuality and even encouraged to create their own.  But the choice of identification (and the idea that one creates it themselves *autonomously*) is a fiction: the available options, traditions, and happenstance attention grabs obscure a pure choice. We like to think that individual people are the true authors of their decisions and that our society is composed of these secular people, but the the fictional/divine creeps in all around us: “it might be said that fiction of popular sovereignty is a more fictional fiction than divine right” (p.85).
 The game of crafting subjects whilst maintaining the loyalty needed to keep the political body together is a game of magic tricks and giant spectacles using subliminal religious undertones if not overt preaching.  The divine fiction that tends to be covered over in the present lies in both the autonomous individual and the national whole: it is supposedly free individuals who affirm and constitute the nation in liberal democracy (which is actually a republic), but the disparate people only exist by virtue of the collective commons.  Each person is now sacred without diminishing any of the grandeur of the sacred nation.  A doubly divine fake-out means there is just the right amount of confusion for a self to bloom.
 This is merely the structure of faith within the context of an effective constitution of people.  To be and declare oneself faithless is to understand illusions in their negativity, but does not become creative unless one goes farther into the negativity of the one making the statement.  This opens up the potential for a new collectivity and, therefore, a new subjectivity to form in the wake of a loss of faith – rather than pure destruction or passive acquiescence.

The Nothing in Belief, Simon Critchley’s Faith of the Faithless p.1

Reading Simon Critchley’s latest book The Faith of the Faithless is like receiving some of the most relevant currents from past intellectuals for our problems today. Government and consent, autonomy and violence, faith and ethics weave together into a story informing the trajectory we are racing along, all the while the impetus to act responsibly with thought and careful reflection race along with us. The central concern to the book as I read it is to articulate the basis for a faith that we can believe in today, even amidst the seemingly insurmountable apathy and nihilism preventing a commitment to a positive future. Nihilism is not a mode of thinking to be rejected in favor of a happy optimism or a comforting belief but thought through. The pervasiveness of disenchantment with the state of the world, the rush of stimulation at the sight of the latest thinly-veiled fantasy apocalypse story followed by an “oh well, I got to go back to work”, is a serious concern not to simply attack but grapple with. Such is the over-arching motivation behind this work: to provide a theoretico-religious faith when faith is in such short supply and understandably so.

This is the work of painstaking commitment. To not condemn, to not write or proclaim the next messiah, to not command and determine action according to a ruler’s program; but to search the landscape for signs when added up point in a direction of hope. This can also be a work of immense joy and even ecstatic humor.
Taking a survey of the time we find ourselves in, feeling and observing organizations of power and the road they are taking us on can have the overwhelming effect of despair and disbelief. I’ve got a mind to think that many would rather avoid this thought and reserve it for “the artists” – if they aren’t busy with immediate survival and crushing debt. The despair and disconnect come from a general sense of powerlessness: the trembling in the face of a system that operates so smoothly that even one’s most uplifting moments still cannot rearrange its highly stabilized movements. But this powerlessness is precisely what Critchley seizes on in defining ethical relations: effective political resistance against a dominating power is created in fusing infinite demands into a local struggle allowing weak forces to exceed their *realistic* limitations.
The infinite demands so often mentioned stand for a call from beyond – somewhere else. The reserve from which a subject gets its energy to act responsibly (to one another, society, or country) comes from a fictional source. This fictional source transcends the local conditions of an environment and persuades the subject to act otherwise than what is expedient and immediately rewarding to it. It is all too easy for pragmatists, political realists, atheists, and nihilists to point to the fictional, fantastical, and incorporeal nature of these demands and turn instead to effects as they are felt immanently. And they have a good point; believing in something transcending what is viscerally right in front of you, weighing down on you in direct contact requires a leap into strange territory. At worst this can result in dogmatic attachment or a cultic following that abolishes all deviancy. But to ignore the power of the faith-based fictions circulating both now and in our history or outright combating them is to deny who we have become and how we got here. Our culture and history are saturated with symbols of otherworldly beings and imaginary constructions that people believe in wholeheartedly. To take an opposing tract and settle with non-belief, to only deal with *real* beings in *this* world, misses an essential point about what it means to believe and have faith.
That being stated, to believe in the era of information overflow means one must get through, step inside of, or at least consider the nothing of nihilism – the gap that persists in all acts of belief. That mystical facet reserved for many in a super-sensible world seems to have crashed into the physical world, organizing it with statistics and other formally precise symmetries making us feel trapped. Believability has become flexible, bending and stretching our commitments and pursuits across a wide spectrum yet inside a totalizer whole. To isolate a local place and allow for something infinite to combine with that place is perhaps *the* most pressing matter here on a planet under the threat of a global capitalism tightening its grip on a uniform measurement of wealth.
Again, this is no reason to throw oneself into whatever beliefs provide a momentarily inspiring spark: the nothing hanging over the shoulder of belief *must* be affirmed. Critchley’s brilliance is in affirming the nothing twice as a double nothing (he calls it meontology) that everyone is caught between. This highly charged zone between two nothings is actually what it means to believe, in contrast with a one-way attachment to a figure representing reality. The differing structure of an affirmative nihilism to hierarchical beliefs puts the subject in a tenuous spot where the only reprieve is a constant movement until a new self might emerge in conjunction with the infinite demand calling for it. This call comes from somewhere, as in the face of the other that confronts me, and the otherness of this place or thing *assures* all belief of a nothing. But this infinitely demanding belief is “a massively creative nothing” (p.245) which when affirmed in its nothing forms the groundwork for a critically uncompromising belief.
This is the work that prepares for a belief that does not fall into a apathetic laziness or a violent destruction of *the* system (which can be made to stand for anything and everything). Both of these positions risk feeding the systems that do predominate and in effect align with the beliefs anchoring those systems.
More to come on this later with deeper textual analysis.