Badiou, Assange, Gurdjieff, being sick

May 9, 2011

I like being sick, because, after calling it in to work, I can now look forward to a day of leisurely reading. I can update this blog.

I can notice how physical frailty affects one’s philosophical posture. When I am sick, I aalways remember Bataille saying  that his philosophy is of a man who is sick, or crushed by a terrible heavy stone and unable to breathe. Like Loki, crushed by Thor’s hammer. (The new Marvel movie is quite bad).

I have been reading a lot of Alain Badiou, and even getting other people to read him. Today I have a nasty cough, and  i find him too stringent, and addressing only an average healthy person. (This is why, yesterday, I picked up, finally, Kurt Goldstein’s The Organism). Badiou does not have much to say about the weaknesses of the flesh, does he? This, perhaps, is because he is a Cartesian, after all. His Hegelianism might be a continuation of his Cartesianism. The individual cogito and the Geist are the same. Hegelian Spirit which comes to knows itself etc. becomes, with Badiou, the human subject: that subjectivity (in a sense of subjecthood) is earned, as Peter Hallward puts it by “those rare individuals who constitute themselves as the subjects of a truth, as the ‘militants‘ of their cause” (Ethics, translator’s introduction, viii). Rare individuals. This is Hallward speaking, not Badiou. BAdiou does say that subjecthood is earned, not simply assumed to be possessed by every human being. But I don’t recall him qualifying just how rarely that happens.

Badiou’s subject is what Gurdjieff called ‘soul’. Not everyone has one, and the getting of it is a reward for the painstaking process of overcoming what Gurdjieff calls ‘automatism‘ of modern life. Gurdjieff’s automatism, in some ways corresponds to what Hallward describes as “the ‘ordinary’ realm of established interests and differences, of approved knoledges that serve to name, recognize and place consolidated identities“(ibid, same page). I suspect that Gurdjieff saw this automatic living as pre-eminently the modern malady, postulating a forgotten paradise where it was easier TO BE. Badiou, I suspect, finds no such untroubled flourishing in ancient history. Rather, his “Communist hypothesis” is predicated on the desirability of such a future.

Julian Assange puts it in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist: “There are three types of history. Type one is knowledge. Its creation is subsidized, and its maintenance is subsidized by an industry or lobby: things like how to build a pump that pumps water, how to create steel and build other forms of alloys, how to cook, how to remove poisons from food, etc. But because this knowledge is part of everyday industrial processes, there is an economy that keeps such information around and makes use of it”.

Second type of history, acc. to Assange, is history proper: “This second type of information no longer has an economy behind it. It has already found its way into the historical record through a state of affairs which no longer exists.” I’d like to take an issue with this formulation “no longer exists”, as well as with his assertion that “no one is actively trying to destroy this type of information.”

Third type information ( it is curious how Assange is switching between the terms ‘history’ and ‘information’ ) is “the information that people are actively working to prevent from entering into the record.”

Provisionally, I’d say that Badiou’s demarcation line between stable knowledge and truth production runs midway though Assange’s second type.

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