From the turn of the century UK-based human geography in particular has witnessed a rapid upsurge of interest in new conceptualisations of, for example, practice, performance, politics, embodiment and materiality. This reading group regularly meets to read philosophical works and trans-disciplinary materials that can inform the ongoing evolution of 'non-representational geographies'. Readings are rich and varied, for example: significant discussion within the group (and beyond) has been inspired by continental philosophers such as Badiou, Deleuze, Nancy and Ranciere as well as with recent developments in what has come to be known as 'Speculative Materialism/Realism'. Whilst the reading group is formally situated in the School of Geographical Sciences, regular participants come from across the Humanities and Social Sciences and from other institutions. We welcome participation from those with a keen interest in critically engaging with contemporary philosophical debates in the humanities, social sciences and science.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Bubbles review

Review of Sloterdijk's 'Bubbles' that might be of interest:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Closer to me than I am myself: Chapter 8

First point – Contraction

p. 575

I was interested in Sloterdijk’s exposition of Nicholas of Cusa’s ‘coincidence of opposites’ as an early modern attempt to envisage the immanent relation of Creator (God) and creature (the individual’s soul). Cusa’s argument, as illustrated in the examples given by Sloterdijk, is that all things are enveloped or enfolded (complicatio) in God, while God is manifest only as developed or unfolded (explicatio) in all the things of the world. The means by which enfolding and unfolding occur - that is, the relation between the processes of enfolding and unfolding – is that of contraction (contractio), or the delimitation of God (the divine maximum) into nature – e.g. individual perception as a contraction, a ‘branch office’ of God’s actually infinite vision (p.275). Although Cusa’s philosophy appears to gesture toward a fully immanent pantheism, Sloterdijk highlights his reaffirmation of the asymmetry and sovereign/hierarchical transcendence of the divine as absolute maximum (e.g. in the discussion of debt and the birth of entrepreneurial subjectivity – this section is actually one of many in the chapter that reminded me of Foucault’s lecture series). Nicholas of Cusa’s speculative mysticism would later be taken up (and Deleuze argues radicalised – complication and explication are absolutely equivalent) in the philosophy of Spinoza, where the Cusan ‘coincidence of opposites’, where the maximum is the minimum and vice versa, is streamlined in Spinoza into a single, univocal substance. Whilst the Cusan process of contraction into nature is, in Spinoza, the expression of modes of movement and affect.

Second point – The Monstrous

p. 629-630

I am intrigued by Heidegger and Sloterdijk’s notion of ‘inhabiting the monstrous outside’ as the defining character of ‘being-in’ of our contemporary world. The translation footnote states that Sloterdijk isn’t referring here to monster (das Unngeheure) in the conventional sense of ‘atrocious’ or ‘horrible’, but rather as something ‘immense’, ‘enormous’, or ‘unfathomable’. I have read elsewhere that Sloterdijk will return to the notion of ‘the monstrous’ in the preface to the next book of Spheres (Globes), where he describes globalisation as the geometrisation of the unmeasurable,‘geometry in the monstrous’. So the monstrous is used as a qualification within Sloterdijk’s work for a world in which the Sphere-One (the notion of being-in-God explored in this chapter) has imploded (‘God is dead’), resulting in a totality that allows neither full understanding nor total comprehension, and a situation in which smaller inferior spheres have to be produced which emulate the immunological functions of the monosphere. I am interested to see how this argument is unpacked and developed in the subsequent volumes, particularly in terms of the transference from micro- to macrospheres (the mechanisms and psycho-political risks all to briefly hinted at in this first book), as well as the concepts a spherology provides to think the architecture and communication/relation between different spheres and intimacies.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Soul Partitions and The Siren Stage: Chapters 6-7

First point – Autistic Bubbles


Building on my point last week, these pages provide some insights into what an ethics of spherology might look like. The bottom of page 439 states that the With-companion operates as a kind of membrane, or sluice, through which the metabolic exchange between subject and world takes place. Sloterdijk presents two main risks, or failures of the companion’s membrane function, here: the first in which this opening is not sufficiently porous so that it closes the subject off from the world. The discussion of the Jennifer and June Gibbons case on p. 440 is a fascinating illustration of such autistic spheres, in which the companion-other becomes too real, obsessive, impermeable, and thus seals the subject off from communication with the outside so strongly that a hermetic inner life emerges. The second risk emerges from the premature loss or absence of the companion, in which the hermetic communion becomes a security measure that shields the subject from the shock of the outside.

The becoming-autistic of bubbles thus counts among the potential danger of the dyadic communion which may become less a linking than dividing. The understanding of the ‘non-autistic’, protective-permeable bubble that enables openness, transference and communicative competence reminded me of the ethics Deleuze sees in the philosophy of Simondon, which is oriented against modes of aestheticism, or acts that cut the individual off from the pre-individual reality in which it is immersed, and instead in terms of an affirmation of ontogenesis and an augmentation of capacities to enter into relations and becomings.

Second point - Therapy


These pages are interesting as attempts to subvert Lacanian ego and object-centric accounts of neuroses – with some interesting implications for thinking therapy and care of the self. S. foregrounds melancholia over mourning in Freud’s distinction, which he understands as the subject’s response to the premature amputation of the ‘genius’ or ‘intimate nobject’. Therapy, at the bottom of page 461, would thus consist of strengthening the isolated/autistic subject’s potential for a renewed faith, a restored belief, in the possibility of mental augmentation. So for S. melancholic depression isn’t just an individualised mental problem (as in traditional psychoanalytical approaches), but rather a media problem; a function of the personal relationship with the mediating operation of the With. S. identifies three means of recalibrating the mediation system of the subject on page 462: the analyst as substitute genius in traditional psychoanalytical transference relationships; the assertion of a higher god in pastoral-theological counselling; and finally autotherapeutic self-augmentation techniques (the return of Warhol’s tape-recorder). The language of self-care is particularly interesting here, and on p.465 he remarks on the possibility of the subject ‘training itself to lose the other in such a way that its disappearance would not be followed be ego loss’. Annoyingly S. leaves this undeveloped, perhaps because this itself is a form of nobject loss as it requires a clear demarcation of the subject and the possibility of the object being lost or abandoned. Beyond the need for ‘mythological thinking and practice’, Sloterdijk is also quite hesitant on the possibilities of an incorrect or ‘bad’ repair – those assumptions, discourses, ideologies, microfascisms that influence the practice of therapy and which might further imprison the subject within autistic and destructive spheres.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

'Retreat within the mother' and 'The primal companion'

First point – Nobjects

p. 292-294

I found Sloterdijk/Macho’s notion of the nobject interesting as a means for thinking beyond subject/object dichotomies and the ‘object prejudice’ of psychoanalysis. Whereas the object is based on a relationship of distance (that which separates the here (I) from the not-here (not-I)), the nobject is something in which the distance between It and the subject is unthinkable and non-existent (see p. 294). S. focuses on three pre-oral, foetal examples, including the placenta, acoustic events and air. Nobjects are media or things that are productive of intimate microspheres that augment the subject in particular ways. Interesting analysis in these chapters of examples of post-natal modes of nobjectivation that suck the subject in, and create new spheres of mediation around the subject (intriguing understanding of life becoming a process of finding replacement nobjective Withs).

The concept of nobject might open interesting ways of theorising new technologies and new media (I was similarly intrigued with the notion of interfaces in the ‘Between faces’ chapter); as substitutions for the With which are productive of new resonances and relations with others (Andy Warhol’s tape recorder, p. 401) – e.g. ubiquity of facebook profiles, blogosphere, computer game avatars; examples of interfaces no longer based on an opposition of mutually exclusive entities (so not necessarily objects separated from the subject) but rather on their interpenetration (more of a life-forming, life-giving dyadic relation).

Second point – An Ethics of Spherology?

pp. 341

Raises interesting questions regarding ethics of spherology – Further discussion (particularly in the excursus on Heidegger) of the possibility of the perversion of the subject through self-destructive attachment to nobjects, and the becoming-fascist of micro/macrospheres. The question for me is what theoretical resource/facilitative rules does a spherological approach provide for evaluating the mode of existence and relationality particular spheres imply, as well as for identifying (and perhaps combatting) the emergence of fascist forms (unclear beyond the fact that a sphere should be radiative, hearty, augmenting).

Sloterdijk 'Bubbles': Between Faces & Humans in the Magic Circle

Below are my notes for the chapters Between Faces & Humans in the Magic Circle (pages 139-268) which I raised at the meeting. Please feel free to add your comments or notes, either as a response to this post or as a separate post

First point – Mirrors and Psychoanalysis

Pages 192-205

Particularly amusing and scathing critique of psychoanalysis and its theories around the concept of mirrors. In these pages Sloterdijk points out the extent to which theoretical apparatuses (spheres of knowledge) are located in the material and technical cultures of the societies in which they emerge. On p. 197 he takes aim at a foundational theory of contemporary psychoanalysis (mirror-stage and self-recognition), and exposes the discipline for what it is: a culturally specific mode of explanation.

'Even Lacan's tragically presumptuous theorem about the mirror stage's formative significance for the ego function cannot overcome its dependence on the cosmetic and ego-technical household inventory of the nineteenth century - much to the detriment of those who were taken in by this psychological mirage'

He argues that in order to prove the valence of psychoanalytic theories in any cultures other than the Western ones we would have to first demonstrate the presence of mirrors (he argues that even until the Modern age few had mirrors and they were cloaked in secrecy – for much of human history S. argues that most of the human race had not seen their own faces [I think he oversimplifies here – e.g. reflection in another’s eyes for example ‘the other thus acts as a personal mirror’ p.200 – but there is certainly something interesting to be said about how the ‘interface’ of mirror technologies opens up new modes of self-encounter – ‘they no longer require completion through the present other, but can complete themselves through themselves so to speak’ p. 20] – says something similar about writing in thought transmission]), and then the emergence of mirror-subjectivities. S. also argues that if we reread the narcissistic mirror-narrative with this intervention in mind, we actually arrive at the stark opposite of narcissism in ‘pre-reflection’ cultures: the visage in the water is not an image of the self, but of another – ‘Looking at the entire history of human faciality, one can say that humans have faces not for themselves, but for the others’ p.192. So through this example we return again to the issues of ontotopology, spherological being and technicity which are of central concern to Sloterdijk’s Spheres

Second point – Faciality

Pages 163-168

I was interested in Sloterdijk’s critique of Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of faciality, and returned to the chapter in ATP to begin to reflect on the differences and commonalities between Sloterdijk’s interfacial hothouses and D+G’s abstract machines of faciality. On page 167 Sloterdijk argues that his disagreement with D+G stems from their blindness to the protraction of the Homo Sapiens face, a universal process that takes place through a first stage of facial opening and a second stage of culturally-specific inscription. So rather than an understanding of the face in terms of ‘interfacial hothouses’ that generate insulating forms of togetherness, D+G speak in terms of white walls and abstract machines of faciality that undermine togetherness and allow for modes of domination and exclusion. D+G thus state that the ‘face is a politics’ which fulfils the role of selective response, organising the world in terms of binary and molar oppositions (man/woman, white/black, included/excluded).

However, at points in the chapter Sloterdijk also hints, in line with D+G, at the exclusive effects of living between faces. On pages 183-185, for example, Sloterdijk points to interfacial spheres as spaces where punishment and obedience may flourish (Roman Empire) as well as act as spaces of exclusion (obscurity of the feminine face in art).

Also… the emergence of new technical interfaces (monitors, cameras, assessment forms) that replaces protraction with detraction and abstraction that emphasise the inhuman and extra-human aspects of the human face and which propagate probe-heads, allow escape from facial machines (p. 189, Deleuze’s Cinema books)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gilles Deleuze's 'L'Abecedaire'

Hey all,

Thought this DVD might be of interest to the group:

Blurb below:

Although Gilles Deleuze never wanted a film to be made about him, he agreed to Claire Parnet’s proposal to film a series of conversations in which each letter of the alphabet would evoke a word: From A (as in Animal) to Z (as in Zigzag). These DVDs, elegantly transtlated and subtitled in English, make these conversations available for English-speaking audiences for the first time.

In dialogue with Parnet (a journalist and former student of Deleuze), the philosopher exhibited the modest and thrilling transparency that his seminal works (such as Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus) reveal. The sessions were taped when Deleuze was already terminally ill; he and Parnet agreed that the film would not be shown publicly until after his death. The awareness of mortalityfloats through the dialogues, making them not just intellectually stimulating but also emotionally engaging. Because Parnet knew Deleuze so well, she was able to draw him out--as no one else had--to what might be the 1001st plateau: a place of brilliance, rigor, and charm.

In "A as in Animal," for example, Deleuze vents his hatred of pets: "A bark," he declares, "really seems to me the stupidest cry." Instead, he praises the tick: ". . . in a nature teeming with life, [the tick] extracts three things": light, smell, and touch. This, he claims, in a sense is philosophy. "And that is your life’s dream?" Parnet wryly asks. "That's what constitutes a world," he replies.