Though it’s likely to be evident, I’ll state it anyway: I’m not a philosopher proper. I am an artist, and that frames my interest in Georges Bataille.
With that in mind, any remarks I have regarding this post are likely also to reflect my limited acquaintance with the wider corpus of philosophical discourses. I hope to return to Transcendental Enquiries post a few times yet, to consider it much more carefully than I have this morning. In the interim, I want to preserve reference to these sections (quoted below) because they sparked some related thoughts:
In a reaction to Bataille and a certain Bataillian interpretation of Lacan, he uses dialectics to overcome transgression, by distinguishing between particular and absolute transgression, the latter as the transgression of the transgression. This would lift us above the messiness of desire and open up the domain of love. But isn’t he going a little too quick here? Of course, one can try to transgress transgression itself, but does this really make a difference. Take a successful hedonist-transgressive manager who opts at the age 60 for a simple life in the mountains. Or take a Casanova who at the age of 40 suddenly opts for marriage. Is the choice for the simplicity or marriage here not finally just a more subtle move in the very same economy of desire….
Overall, it can be said that Bataille’s personal journey was that of one whom was exorcising his own demons. The wealth of insight that is benefited by such an endeavour likewise bespeckles and traces a journey, moreso than it describes a destination. So then I wonder if we can equate the more objective fact of a destination to an inner or experiential one. For instance, what the manager and the Casanova have chosen to do, as a singular act, could reflect any number of possible inner-world acceptances, conundrums, or un-resolves. Why would these acts describe a destined or final attainment of philosophical resolve? Or – wait a minute – perhaps that is point being made here afterall.
Still… There is some difference intended when we choose the word ‘desire’ or, instead, the word ‘love’. The prior usually relates to an object (conceptually or subconsciously) while the latter more often refers to a state (a mode, or mood). Love requires an opening from within; an empathetic openness. This to come back to, later…
What I want to note, for my purposes, pertains to this notion of transgressing the transgression. My interest surrounds these questions: Is it important that we distinguish between regression, transgression, and fetishism? If it’s possible to do so, is it necessary? Would this change the way we understand the transgressive works of various artists?
….And while inner experience is itself the opposite of action, of project, of knowledge, it is nevertheless led by discursive reason. “Reason alone has the power to undo its work, to hurl down what it has built up.” This also explains for him the necessity of a mystical-poetical approach; and not poetry as a means to express the extreme limit, not to master it in a work of art, but as way of putting language at risk; to destabilize language in order to seduce us into the silence of non-knowledge….
This all resonates very well with the many anti-literality and anti-psychological theatre movements taken up by Late Modern performing artists. The opening within silences (whether it be the unsaid or the unspeakable) is both a provocation and an allowance. The making of conceptual ‘space-holder’ where the other is left to their associative memories, feelings, and interpretative thoughts. In fact, those are experiential occurrences and liminal spaces very many contemporary artists rely quite heavily on. This emphasis contains within it an inherent trust in a certain character of self-knowledge which fills in and/or expands within that space.
I recognize that use of the word ‘knowledge’ has specific reference in the historical discourses of philosophy. I’m instead making reference to a knowledge more broadly inclusive of memory, emotion, and the senses. A knowledge which extends also to the mutual reality we reflect upon, as performing artists; the knowing of and from experience. Which relates entirely to another thought I had, while reading this beautifully written bit…
.…Georges Bataille was not the only one trying to oppose Hegelian monism, in a new plea for a dualist approach….
…As Hans Jonas has argued, there is close connection between nihilist existentialism and Gnosticism, for they seem to be rooted in a similar experience. The Gnostic sees himself confronted with the indifference of the universe to human aspirations. “The starry sky now stared man in the face with the fixed glare of alien power and necessity.” “Gone is the cosmos with whose immanent logos my own can feel kinship, gone the order of the whole in which man has his place.” The gnostic still experiences the world as a cosmos, as an order, but the problem now resides precisely in its completeness: it’s understood as a strict system of law, alien to our spiritual call. The cosmos is no longer a home; values are left ontologically unsupported, and the self is thrown back upon itself. And just as in Bataille’ story, it is dread which marks the awakening of the inner self from the slumber or intoxication of the world.
First, some helpful backgrounding: I had very little patience for Hegel, when I had attempted to acquaint Phenomenology of the Spirit. It seemed to me that an effort to systemize the ephemeral, associative, nonlinear, incoherent, unreasonable and inseparable into hierarchical compartments requires a great deal of projective objectification. ‘Tis easier for me to empathize with and understand the struggle to break out of or undo the repressive inscriptions a religious society imposes upon it’s every member. So as to say: Bataille’s breaking-down was far easier to relate to, than was Hegel’s building-up.
It wasn’t merely my prejudice in regard to polar-dichotomies, either, that had me frustrated with those texts. Actually, I should specify that the prejudice relates more to the cultural consequences of dualism as a dialectic process. Which, probably also explains my impression of Hegel as both the well-intending deliverer and mistaken reference for (culturally misguided) self-justifications.
Sheesh; I guess that makes me the prickliest sort of hobbyist philosopher. Or perhaps it meets with that crotchety adage I’ll choose here to bastardize: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing… Si c’est ca, je l’accepte.
At the base of it, and in a more general way, I recall myself struggling to co-entertain Hegel’s threads of thought because it too frequently alluded to a transcendence of life itself. Oft astray in the reductive abstract meanwhile experience was the bog he waded into. I remember supposing that it was no wonder contradiction represented so much promise for him. As if he was pushing ideas up through a crack in a sidewalk, and then pushing the ground aside, to reach for the sun.
Not to dismiss the value of the exercise, obviously, there was value in it. For myself, however, it is more difficult to share in the logic of a mysticism designed for a soul’s sake, than it is to investigate a rather more disordered mysticism for the sake of wellbeing. Yes: Bataille struggled within a dualistic frame and sought a transcendence all the same. Products of their environment, inescapably, as we all are. And I suspect the will to ascension is a force which serves to necessitate transgression, inevitably. The violent expression of a knowledge unacknowledged. Yet Bataille managed to acquire and impart his insights by some more entertain-able and relate-able means.
… An excavation… A rooting around and unearthing… An opening it all up from within.
In short, my ability to relate or not moreso stems back to my own understanding of the body as the originary and definitive reference for Being. A too-literally-considered abstraction serves as it’s purpose precisely that of ignoring any concrete bodily relevance. It, of course, represents an impulse to transcend Being itself. As if to escape it. As if to dominate and dispose of it. In some cases, it is even the expression of a kind of hatred or resentment for it. To be carried too far afloat in the abstracted, the re-represented, that which objectifies, is to ensure the whole of the bodily self remains hidden within the labyrinth mind.
At least, this seems true where it has become a habit of perception. There are consequences to be considered, of that habit.
For example: Perhaps that habit is partly responsible for the crisis of a realization that the cosmos is care-less. One’s disembodied self then couched nowhere familiar – an alien universe without especial concern – thus not considered secure-enough. One’s bodily self concealed and thus unattended; dissociated and thus neglected. Our own existential character of concern for self, concern for self and other, concern for us-bodily-inhabiting an earthly world, is then not accessible to us.
Inaccessible and concealed also then is the ‘body of knowledge’. Bodily self-knowledge. Perhaps it could be described as an evolving and plural synthesis of lived experience. To be familiar with the ache soaked and dire muck of it all, is the ground from within which empathy thrives.
This line of thinking likewise pertains to those “ontologically unsupported values”… So that the paragraph (quoted above) prompted this thought: But then isn’t one simply tripping over their own feet while gazing at the stars?
The whole of a bodily self, understands the eyes and feet and fingers are encountering differing attributes of the same world. And that while the influence of thought traverses the ‘within’ and ‘without’, the thinker is not actually boundless.
…. That unbounded-ness… an un-boundary-ness…. the boundary-less-ness.
Do these denote differences between regression, transgression, and fetishism?
This morning, these and other such thoughts led me onward to a topic far less related to this lovely, and rich, post I was reading. So I’ll preserve those inklings in a whole other post of their own….