August 21, 2004

Cold Reason

Now that I know that I don't have to get my knob pierced, I guess it's safe for me to go Kollektive...

I'm confused, and I'm sure that I'm not the only one. Perhaps when the various roving Cold Rationalists come across a computer, they could have a go at the following:

1. What exactly is the distinction between reason and cold reason? Surely it cannot simply be that the latter is reason we donít get too excited about.

2. Is Burroughs really a Cold Rationalist? He has never seemed very rational to me. If not, then there must be other ways of getting through your head than cold reason, and it looks like drugs and magic(k) might very well be one of them.

3. Following on from this, are Cold Rationalists a sub-group of abstract engineer?

4. Is Mark really just a puritan advocating his favourite out of a number of options for reaching Uttunul ;)

Posted by johneffay at August 21, 2004 05:35 PM | TrackBack

first of all, can i say how much i have 1. enjoyed, 2. been bewildered, 3. been bouleversed by this machine...

but i wonder what this faith in "rationality" is about, given the underpinnings of any libidinal economy in terms of the unconscious which has to play some part in all of the workings of what mark is alluding to?(or correct me pls.)?

if we can bracket the workings of something which is not rational, fundamentally, in what name, on what topology? (genuine question, forgive my ignorance, mebbe you can answer this in all simplicity?)

otherwise: you the don, please answer me civilly, cos 1. that's a value of sorts (friendship, hospitality), 2. i'm genuinely confused with yr defn of rationality, while being also befuddled. 3, plus: like the east end ting cos i lived dere for 6 years..

Posted by: misfunctionbot at August 22, 2004 03:18 AM

I agree. I think reason is important, but possibly not sufficient in and of itself. I can see the value of controlling the emotions and acting rather than being acted upon, but I don't think you need to be a death obsessed Satanic goth-boy in order to appreciate the possibilities of hacking the unconscious.

Posted by: johneffay at August 22, 2004 11:08 AM

Phewwwww - back online in the cold green black of k-space --- jacking in/ up on a cafe in wales, beady eyes of someone wanting to go on friends reunited on my back as I type, so I gotta be quick:

as usual, brilliant questions John, ones that needs clarifying:

1. Reason _is_ cold (at least from PoV of the heat of Human OS passion. As you have pointed out before John, reason is a tool to get to ILG - ILG is the ultimate goal. Important thing is that ILG is not opposed to reason, but surpasses it i.e. even thought ILG is an emotional state of laetitia/ joy/ ecstasy it is a hyper-rational state, not anything at all to do with the irrational.

2. Burroughs I think is a Cold Rationalist (don't have time to substantiate this but will do)

3. Haven't thought about abstract engineers/ cold rationalists relation before ---- will do so now.

4. Probably.... but I think there is some support from ATP and Spinoza here: emphasis on sobriety etc.

Misfunctionbot --- hope this of some use, will answer more when not under time/ territorial pressure ---- please note though that civil enquiries, criticisms and even personal attacks are treated civilly here until it becomes clear that ppl cannot be reasoned with LOL

Posted by: mark at August 22, 2004 01:03 PM

If reason just is cold, why can you not just be a Rationalist? (I admit that I have a fairly good idea as to the answer of this one, but I'd like to see you spell it out)

Looking forward to a big argument about Burroughs being a Cold Rationalist!

Posted by: johneffay at August 22, 2004 11:16 PM

thanx for responding, and thanx for the clarifications - look fwd to the subsequent postings.

one of the things i meant possibly was that "reason" might be, in some ways, a particular investment of the unconscious, a particular stasis between the death drives and libido - "hey death, i won't upset the applecart for now if yu don't///'

i mean this seems to be consonant with the arguments of deleuze-bot and guattari-bot in anti-oedipus at least for the most part..

and even moreso of lyotard;s libidinal economy, where this representational rational t'ing is seen as a slowing down of the vertiginous spinning of the fleshly moebius strip of intensity?

lyotard at least seemed to see this as an impasse, but i'm still thinking: what would a rationality be these days? how would it be the basis of a philosophy without bringing in the cogito?

on other news: did you know that if you're in bethnal green of a night and you need some cans, go to "paradise cottage" near the tube, the best named kebab place evah, buy a delicious veggie falafel kebab, and pay well-over-the-odds (gbp2,00 FOR a can of stella - but it's 3am) for the beers. what summer time's all abaht. specially if you're just coming back from a couple of pills, a few lines, or whatevah

Posted by: at August 23, 2004 12:53 AM

> controlling the emotions

There is a view of things that an emotion could not be limited by reason, but only by another emotion - the obvious ones in the current context might be fear (for detachment), suspicion (for interpretation), and curiosity (for something else).

> the possibilities of hacking the unconscious

Hacking could be simple disruption: a script-kiddie attack. Or it could be the exploration of the potential of the means at hand, without much regard for originally intended use. The (possibly obsessive) thoroughness and care for detail involved in the latter would be a rationality.

Posted by: rx at August 23, 2004 08:05 AM

the cold/hot dichotomy of rationalism provides an ideal and failure. what is hot rationalism? it appears to work against rationalism's inherent stoic associations.

cold rationality instead seems like the true belief in a person's subjectivity - if burroughs in a cold rationalist, under what conditions is rationality defined and how does 'cold' as an attribute further define rationality? why would burroughs - a figure, which by his nature, undermines his legimitization within american culture, one that can nonetheless maintain a suspension of disbelief (and/or a suspension of irrationality) in his experience as a renunciation of the american dream?

More specifically a writer, with a monthly amount of free-time/money (as a descendent to the adding machine, of all devices), who can define a 'pulp' existence still make sublime texts? can success still appear beyond the three-act standards of the american dream? does this make cold-rationalism irresponsible? what morals are left beyond the american dream (eeek!)?

cold rationality presents an utopic transcendence from the ephemeral, the fleeting, from 'burning out.' cold rationalism is a belief that is the opposite of belief - an intellectual icon. maybe the connection to the abstract engineers appears more solid. the thought of these individuals cannot be forgotten, because of the compulsion to re-tell or 'version' it (hebdige-like) never extinguishes over time. time for burroughs instead maintains him as both a visionary and vindicated - an absence of change or dynamism of temperature/emotion.

Posted by: nate at August 23, 2004 09:04 AM

The (possibly obsessive) thoroughness and care for detail involved in the latter would be a rationality.

Interesting, but are you not describing a rational methodology for investigating the irrational? This would support my claim that reason is important but not sufficient in itself.

Posted by: johneffay at August 23, 2004 09:05 AM

speaking of Burroughs...

Posted by: infinite thought at August 23, 2004 11:23 AM

The traditional image of reason's control over the emotions is of a skillful charioteer guiding his horses. But consider the scene depicted in this image from a cybernetic standpoint... no... I'm sorry, I can't do this: I'm even boring myself now.

Was Burroughs cold? Well, junkies always beef about The Cold, as I believe they call it. More to the point, for a man of literature to put his beloved books under the knife is a bit, uh, clinical. (Treatments like this are more normally applied to disliked texts: the marketing-speak generators, postmodernist essay generators, etc.)

Issue that came up in the Guardian article: cut-up is a disruption of reality, but life itself is a cut-up (and so cut-up as a compositional technique makes a more realistic mirror of life). So save money on books and glue by just walking down the street.

Posted by: rx at August 23, 2004 03:09 PM

Might be worth looking at definitions and redefinitions of the word 'Humanism' to throw some tangential light on what we mean by 'rationalism'.

Most people's knee-jerk, instinctual responses to the notion of humanism/humanist are essentially fluffy! ie humanism = the belief that man is central to the universe, his reason is central to understanding the universe and, conversely, the universe is only interpretable through man's subjective experiences. ie any history of the universe must be humanocentric. this type of humanism seems to allow, bizarrely, a convergence of sorts between postmodern critical theorists, espousing universal subjectivity, and populist historians, suggesting history and historical progress are only explicable through a history of man.

Whereas, in fact, humanism, as understood by its practitioners in the sixteenth century European Renaissance had a far less fluffy, more specific meaning - the return to the texts (and values) of classical civilisation; a search for the pure origins of literature, language and ethics which had been corrupted in dark medievalism. Chiefly, what was being objected to - the specific point to react against (as in all movements) was the moralising, Christianizing, glossses which were typically added to translations of essentially amoral poets such as Ovid.

Crucially, these Humanists were not seeking to recover a world in which men reigned by their reason. They were seeking, instead, a world where fate was decided by the dice games of vicious, quixotic gods and the affairs of men formulated through violent passions. This world, apparently, seemed truer to contemporary (Machiavellian etc) experience than the ethics and logic of the Judaeo-Christian tradition handed down by corrupt priests and rulers.

Hence, humanism, like rationalism, when seen at its coldest, when deprived of its false associations, becomes an appreciation of things as they really are. To be truly humanist, or rationalist, you must take the coldest possible view of the world. A book like John Gray's brilliant Straw Dogs views humans as a flawed and strictly limited aberration. What could be more humanist than the attempt to inform a species of its actual biological and historical position on the planet?

Perhaps finally both humanism and rationalism relate to an understanding of human insignificance, an awareness of the viciousness and unpredictability which surround the species and an empirically realised, never idealised, game plan of how best to cope under the circumstances.

Posted by: Jay at August 23, 2004 03:11 PM

I reread the "How Do You Make Yourself a Body Without Organs" chapter in Thousand Plateaus this weekend. Funnily enough they specifically quote Burroughs on The Cold, and talk about this as an example of a BwO, but they also seem to imply that it's not a particularly desirable type of BwO (I think the phrase they use is "these pathetic bodies" or something, referring also to masochism and Artaud)... also they talk about the danger of self-annihilation in pursuit of the BwO, how you need to retain a vestigial trace of ego to deal with the everyday world....

Without knowing what Cold Rationalism is, it's hard for me to see Burroughs as any kind of rationalist, either as we traditionally think of the term or in some higher sense that's beyond the reason/emotion duality... His whole thing was explicitly about destroying reason, rubbing the word out, breaking up linear time, using chance and random juxtaposition to divine reality/the future... all very irrationalist.

Posted by: that's all very well at August 23, 2004 05:12 PM

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Posted by: mart from especially exhilare name-checkism at August 23, 2004 09:00 PM

Yes, D&G like Burroughs, they just don't like the idea of doing lots of smack; hence the botched BwO of the junky.

It's not too difficult to make a case for Burroughs as some sort of cold rationalist from the novels as long as you exclude Junky, Queer, and The Cat Inside. However, if you also take the letters and journals into account, he comes across as anything but rational, and not particularly cold.

Before people moan that the same weight should not be given to the letters, etc. as Naked Lunch, I'll just quote D&G on reading Kafka:

'We will enter, then, by any point [i.e. within his body of work] whatsoever; none matters more than another, and no entrance is more privileged even if it seems an impasse, a tight passage, a siphon'.

I'm happy to ignore Burroughs the person but, for me, Burroughs the literary machine must include all the writings if we are to judge whether or not it is coldly rationalist.

Posted by: johneffay at August 23, 2004 09:04 PM

i don't think Burroughs cut-up was particularly irrational or random...the original Tzara, Gysin model seemed to be but Burroughs always insisted that he imposed his rationality on the cut-ups and fold-ins, used intuition to see where the links would go and how they'd make sense...and i always took his idea of the 'future leaking through' as indicative that we already knew the future, that it was obvious to any rational mind how things would turn out. no wonder he turned to cats.

Posted by: loki at August 23, 2004 09:06 PM

> Burroughs always insisted that he imposed his
> rationality on the cut-ups and fold-ins, used
> intuition to see where the links would go and
> how they'd make sense

Yes. I think K-Punk's polemic seeks to transcend the "all head" definition of rationality.

Calling his rationality Cold is heroic -- by opening up the hard closed box of (un-)rationality, he affirms the essentially non-rational, unconsciously-driven nature of "hot" rationality, and offers a more effective and transcendant version.

But I'm just an enthusiastic amateur. Just my take.

Posted by: paul "Relentlessly Middlebrow" meme at August 23, 2004 09:58 PM

Burroughs always insisted that he imposed his rationality on the cut-ups and fold-ins, used intuition to see where the links would go and how they'd make sense.

I guess I'm just old-fashioned, but if you use your intuition that means you're not being rational... Perhaps you are talking about some "higher" form of rationality, in which case it seems to me it would be much clearer to call it something else...

It's not too difficult to make a case for Burroughs as some sort of cold rationalist from the novels

I wish somebody would make this case then!

Posted by: that's all very well at August 23, 2004 10:25 PM

> (as a descendent to the adding machine, of all devices)

The Unisys Corporation and the mystik/amerika/kapital complex: looks fitting. And speaking of the Third Mind (as Mr Orridge was), has anyone ever managed to get through "Think and Grow Rich"?

> > Memory also contains schematic devices of
> > numbers and measurements, and innumerable
> > principles [numerorum dimenionumque et leges
> > innumerabiles]
> Memory's "rationes" are not reasons of the sort
> that engage a philosopher but "schemes" or
> "ordering devices," something like what
> structures and activates my computer's memory
> in particular ways. The put matters in
> relationships and proportions, and make thinking
> possible.

Rational, schematic, ordered, systematic, methodical, programmatic...

But, if you have
-rational disordering of the senses
-programmatic disruption of dogmatic language systems
or even
-a rational methodology for investigating the irrational
then there's a split between two levels. Perverse hylomorphism?

Posted by: rx at August 24, 2004 09:19 AM

'I guess I'm just old-fashioned, but if you use your intuition that means you're not being rational... Perhaps you are talking about some "higher" form of rationality, in which case it seems to me it would be much clearer to call it something else...'

basically it work like this-its irrational not to heed your intuitions. an enlightened rationality subordinates itself to the needs of the organism it makes up a part of. you don't attempt with your toes what your fingers are better equipped to carry out.

Posted by: luke.. at August 24, 2004 10:20 AM