Thursday, July 16, 2009

How in the context of modern social life does one make a statement or a proposition that acknowledges both the integrity of that statement, the speaker's desire that it be 'true,' and the possibility, most often the fact, that it doesn’t operate on that universal level? How in the modern age do you manage irony and belief, and the dual imperatives of integrity and sociability? If all communication is communication among individuals through mediating forms -of which language is the prime example- then beyond the most rudimentary functions we always operate on speculative induction and generalization. And we should be clear on this: we often build on foundations of desire and hot air. Only in language can one live a life on the 10th floor of a building that doesn't reach the ground.

The first and continuing terror of the age of "reason" is not the power of science, though that's what many—even many of the terrified—assume but its power as an analogy. The age of reason is the age of the theater of science, of people brought to submission not by the violence of law and order policies but by the moral rhetoric behind them. The strangeness of Adorno it seems to me reading him for the first time, is that he’s terrified by men in lab coats because he’s terrified that in some way they represent objective truth. But from the start in the 18th century the rhetoric of truth overshadowed -overwhelmed- any interest in facts themselves. Facts alone are inert and banal. Only the human imagination makes them glow with life. Adorno the idealist like his science-loving enemies -and love is an emotion not a form of reason- imagines that facts glow on their own in the objective world. Adorno is terrified of disenchantment even though he knows that enchantment is false. Raised to believe in progress, he intuits (correctly) that the enchantments of science result is a linguistic short circuit, but as an idealist he can’t see beyond the false paradox of his assumptions. He can't recognize the rhetoric of scientific enchantment for what it is, and that facts in the world, absent our desire, are brute and silent, saying nothing about how we should respond to them. And the irony of ironies is his near fetishistic image of his preferred art, though he could almost be Schoenberg’s Baudelaire, marking his work as the latter had Manet’s: ‘first in decrepitude.’ Adorno is unable to separate instrumentalism from the instrument (it's been a nearly universal error.) He's seen by many as the condemning father but he's a child, the victim of a father's cruelty that he can't help but see as just.

Enchantment is part and parcel of our relations in the world. Language and all related formal systems, from poetry to law, are how each of us in our enchantments communicate: in collective form across enchantments. There is no aspect of scientific knowledge that mandates institutionalized instrumental reason. There is no telos to the world beyond entropy, and even that puts too much of a glow on physical events. The 18th century was the age of enchantment with science, an enchantment morphing over time into various forms of a philosophy along a line similar to that described above in the arts, beginning from the argument that all men are equal, to one that all men are alike, to the final study of man only as alike: the study of people only in terms of generalization. And in this the logic of individualism becomes its opposite. The earlier models of course are the vulgar Left and Right, but the most recent and is what can only call the “vulgar Middle” including both contemporary classical economics and the perverse scholasticism of contemporary academic thought. This is the opposite of the intellectualism of language and the arts, that begin with the lowest common denominator, this is the intellectualism that ends there.

Autistic Ecstasy -The Happy Fetishist

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