Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Everything not everything

This is a response to one of the themes raised by NN:s "The canopy of z – objectivity and surrealism" below, but less than a passionate defense of a particular standpoints. I just want to explicate to what extent this attitude that "everything remains to be done" as well as its opposite remain compatible with surrealism. Surrealism strives to be that nexus where such contradictions are resolved, but in practice individuals still often feel a larger or smaller affinity for either way of reasoning, and it is often necessary in concrete action to make a choice, which for each particular situation is then primarily a strategical choice.

"Everything remains to be done"

First, the libertarian argument. As enthusiasts of freedom we like to open up, and to stand before and savor, fields of possibilities of maximal range. The feeling that "everything remains to be done" AND that "anything is possible" are fundamental to the phenomenology of freedom. We are always at the starting point. It is simply the locus of the feast.
Second, the anti-authoritarian argument. Poetry must be always reinvented at heart, and previous authorities and simple empirical conclusions are in a sense always irrelevant to the creative impulse. No one is to tell us which mistakes to make and which not. Back-to-basics. Intuition. Blank slate. Joy of rediscovery.
Third, the ludic argument. We must allow our priorities to be dictated by the dynamics of the game itself, to refuse utilistic concerns and control exerted by external agents such as preconceived rational planning.
Fourth, the revolutionary argument. All the things we crave are possible in a generalised way only in a society which is drastically more fair and free than the current. This will change the conditions for everything radically so that we really can't know for certain what will be possible and what not. Therefore our results and plans so far can be nothing but pleasurable and/or subversive exercises, that we don't know for sure if they'll have any relevance at all when things get around.
Fifth, the scientific argument. Whatever results we have shouldn't be extrapolated to generalisations, they do not necessarily tell the truth in any stronger sense than the scientific: it is what resulted from a particular investigation with particular methods. Methods, parameters and circumstances can be varied interminably and it is not easy to say which might cause significant differences, breakthroughs or transformations. The number of remaining experiments is endless.
Sixth, the modest argument. We may have good reasons for a certain disappointment in to what extent the surrealist movement so far has been capable of designing its experiments and formulating its conclusions in a systematic way. The immodest research program is technically really only in its early beginnings and the actual milestone results are few.

"Everything does not remain to be done" (a special case of which is the "we are almost there" suggested by NN)

First, the general historical argument. History is change, and most fundamentally it is change of the configuration of the field of possibilities. What's happened and what we've done so far has led us to a point where certain things have been made possible and certain others not.
Second, the collective historical agent argument. We are part of a movement, and this movement throughout its various incarnations in different activities in different countries in different times, has made a lot of experiences that are ours, and which we should utilise. We have a magnificent treasury of experiences. We can avoid repeating mistakes, we can evaluate historical experiences in order to suggest new strategies, we can continue threads prematurely dropped at precisely the point they were dropped.
Third, the pragmatic argument. Obviously, some paths are better than others. We may have an intuition telling us so, or we might have criteria, and the criteria may be based on assession of dynamism or effect or congeniality with selective affinities. Regardless of which, there are only some paths that are meaningful to embark on, and in some mysterious sense, we are right.
Fourth, the ideology criticism argument. We have learned the classical techniques of seeing through many types of lies, illusions and ideological constructs. From the fundamental Marx and Freud, as well as Darwin and Nietzsche, over feminism, to recent applications in situationism, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, there is no shortage of ways to realise how many undertakings would merely serve others' purposes, or serve various regressive, conservative, banal, or counterproductive purposes that are part of oneself. We can see just how many things tried must be abandoned because they – in general or specifically under current circumstances – are filling an objective function opposite to our aims. If we take hardcore recuperation theory and apply it onedimensionally we will get a purely negative and sligtly too powerful criterion, and we might possibly come to the conclusion that there is very little that we are left to continue doing at all, and the only option is the ravaging refusal (because if we see through that too, then we would become mere cynics, which is clearly stillborn). If not, we might use the power of demasking to assess which strategies are viable in spite of criticisms, which options will reach out to countertendencies and make alliances of particular possible significance, which dead ends should be abandoned and which could be refurnished to become new side streams.
Fifth, the constructivist argument; the results we have so far has made unusual experiences and necessitated their conceptualisation and thereby opened up particular new areas of investigation. We have a lot of results that are mainly implemented as the width of questions, investigations and games we are capable of addressing.
Sixth, the immodest argument; those results are, from 1919 on, a radically succesful road of accessing psychic dynamics, poetry, new possibilities, imaginative truth, open rationalism, open realism and integrative power, which is capable of providing not just relevant suggestions but a certain vision of heterogenic wholeness in all meaningful areas of life. We are almost there.

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