December 13, 2004

Blissblog and cold rationalism: the discussion continues

Simon responds to my hyperstition posts:

I suppose ultimately I don’t really get what he’s talking about when he uses the word “rationality”, now that’s supposed to include emotion and the body?

It doesn't include them: but the point is to subordinate passive (i.e. self-destructive) emotions to reason (= identification of the causes of actions) in order to increase the capacity to act.

The body that is involved is obv not the organism.

But of course you aren't going to see what CR means if you insist on imposing the very Romantic dichotomies it is designed to crash. :-)

But judging by the general tenor of his arguments--anti-mammalian, squeamish about emotion--the key word, the one he's got most invested in, is “cold”.

I'm not squeamish about emotion. I'm just committed to extirpating self-destructive and destructive passions (in myself first of all obv). The CR programme is also an erotics of affect - it is about emotional engineering, not about the removal of all affect.

Isn’t thought, however abstractified and supersublimated, always an emotion, though?

In what sense? Certainly the other way round is true: emotions are always thoughts (that's psychoanalysis)

That’s why the notion of artificial intelligence is a non-starter; what could motivate such an intelligence to be bothered with thinking? Thought without emotion is a sail without wind. You have to have a body, monkeymatic flaws and all, to have the energy and will to think.

Why wouldn't AI have a body? Why would drives (what Spinoza calls conatus) be limited to biotic organisms?

Even the impulse to achieve a cold precision of thought is itself an emotional impulse, somatically rooted.

There's two ways you can take this; one goes back into Nietzschean perspectivism (i.e. the arguments he makes against Spinoza, Kant and the stoics - i.e. all the indifferentists - in the first section of Beyond Good and Evil); the other is into a kind of Spinozist neurophilosophy in which you say, yes, the impulse to achieve precision of thought is emotion, but an active emotion, not a passive one....

Equivocations? The basic idea is pretty clear, I think.

Sorry, yes, I meant equivocation in the rhetorical sense, i.e. things that are different being treated as if they are the same thing.

Music, as far as I can tell, belongs to a whole category one could designate with words like “non-sense” and “un-sane”.

Of course music is pyschotic. But then so are all Cold Rationalists.

There’s no point to it, and that’s, sort of, the point of it. Lots of good things in (my) life actually fit those categories, and my response is to affirm that glorious non-utility (I suppose that's the dreaded “vitalism” and Romanticism one hears about? I think these must be the bits in D&G I really like!)

But here again we're back to equating rationalism with utilitarian instrumentalism. It's perfectly Cold Rationalist to do anything to increase your affects. It's not as if people just put on music for no reason; they don't just get up and put on any record in an aleatory way regardless of the effect it has them. That would be 'irrational'. They presumably put on records because they have anticipate particular types of stim. Where Simon and I differ is in the idea that there is some ineffable Factor X involved in this process. I think that, in principle at least, the effect a particular sound sequence has on a body could be described neurologically and musicologically. The fact that such description might not arrive is a sign of human abjection, not that there's something mysterious involved.

Why the investment in mystery? It's religion in the worst sense: authoritarian mystagoguery. By contrast, cyberpunk has always been compatible with Spinozist religion because both insist that stim can be precisely quantified, analysed and replicated. Even - espcially - God is subject to rational analysis.

It also strikes me as perhaps not entirely unconnected that since Mark’s been on this cold rationalist tip, he’s barely written anything on music. Perhaps music in its essence is too much an incitement of stuff that’s not in the CR programme.

If this has happened, it's more a question of widening than narrowing though isn't it? Besides, the Mark Stewart piece and the Glamasochism piece spring immediately to mind as two big predominantly music-based posts. (btw, stand by for big Joy Division punk modernism to postmodernism post....)

In any case, I utterly reject the idea that there's any inherent connection between music and stuff that's not in the CR programme. Yes, most music, like most human activity, is abject, dedicated to the (re)production of sad passions. But, as Leibniz said, music is just organized counting, not some encounter with the inexplicable. And sonic culture, as we all know and celebrate, has been involved in the deprogramming of pacified human bodies, a process that is increasingly connected up with the demystification and demusicalization of sound production.

Far from CR being inimical to music, the cruel might say it is a philosophical vindication for justifying what I was listening to at the age of 14.... :-)

Posted by mark at December 13, 2004 08:48 PM | TrackBack