Month: April 2009

Theses on a new aesthetics

I’m continuing my efforts to think about a theory of aesthetics that builds on Badiou, but attempts to go further in two regards: (1) I want to be explicit about how particular aesthetic practices are to be regarded as inaesthetic; (2) I want to underline the political nature of all events.  I’m currently trying to formulate an argument that would argue that the dominant ideology the state of the situation, is interconnected for all truth procedures.  Anyway, here is it what I’ve been working on:

1) All aesthetic practices are divisible into two categories: those which aspire to truth and those which aspire to entertainment.
– Those which aspire to truth correspond to Badoiu’s categories of didactic,  romantic, and inaesthetic.
–  Those which aspire to entertainment correspond to Badiou’s category of  classical.
2) All aesthetic practices that aspire to entertainment are defined by the problematic of the dominant ideology (in the Althusserian sense of these terms).
3) Within the category ‘aesthetic practices that aspire to truth’ the didactic and romantic are also determined by the problematic of the dominant ideology.
–  The dominant ideology subordinates aesthetic practices to philosophy.  This subordination is the logic of the didactic.
–  The essence of this dominant ideology is not the favouring of philosophy, but the logic of subordination.  Thus the romantic, as the inverse of the didactic, is equally placed within the problematic of the dominant ideology.
4)  Aesthetic practices in the category of inaesthetics are characterised by the following:
–  They are faithful to an event (i.e., L’année dernière à Marienbad is faithful to the event of the French New Wave).
–  This faithfulness is defined as an operation by which a medium explores itself  as a medium (Schonenburg explores the definition of the medium ‘music’ by  tonality).

A question for all you Badiou scholars

I’m working my way through Being and Event and I’m confused by a seeming aporia concerning Badiou’s understanding of inclusion and belonging.  In Meditation Seven, he writes ‘inclusion can be defined on the basis of belonging alone’ (83)  Later, in his discussion of the void-set, he writes that while it is true that Ø is included in Ø, it is not true that Ø belongs to Ø (87).  I understand, more or less, the arguments that flow from this latter statement, but I don’t understand who it can be true given that inclusion can be defined on the basis of belonging alone.

I may be missing something really simple here, but if anyone has any insight, I would be grateful.

Article in Film-Philosophy

Todd McGowan’s article in the latest issue of Film-Philosophy is quite good, though a classic example of what Baidou would call the didactic aesthetic.  Entitled, ‘Hegel and the Impossibility of the Future in Science Fiction Cinema,’ it is quite good though curiously doesn’t mention Althusser.  This might seem like a typical critique coming from someone who likes Althusser, but in my defense the piece devotes a significant amount of space to arguing that it is not possible to think the outside of an ideology while within that ideology (and since one is always in an ideology all thought is limited by an ideology).  I would take issue with this point as well.  Having said that, for an article that says a lot that I disagree with, it is very interesting and warrants consideration.

Theology and philosophy

There is an ongoing conversation at An und für sich which is concerned with the relationship between philosophy and theology. I think Anthony is making an interesting point that deserves further consideration.

I don’t think it is intrinsically problematic that theology has an unprovable axiom at its heart (namely, God exists). Furthermore, I think that if this axiom is made, it is worth the effort to investigate the consequences of it and its attached axioms (this God is a Trinity, he created the world ex nihilo, etc.). What is problematic is not acknowledging that such axioms make genuine dialogue difficult, though not impossible. If you start with an unprovable axiom, it is disingenuous to fault other systems (based on other unprovable axioms) for not adopting positions that support the conclusions of your set of axioms.

This difficulty aside, I think a worrying hermeneutic plagues contemporary theology. Two structural clichés dominate theology’s use of philosophy:

1) A particular current philosopher or philosophy says a, but really his argument is a weaker form of this particular theological point b. The reoccurrence of this point in contemporary philosophy shows that it is inevitable to return to the need for God in order to think the subject, language, politics, sexuality, etc.

2) A particular current philosopher is a proclaimed atheist, but if we examine his work we find underlying religious themes that prove his thought relies upon an unacknowledged belief in God.

To name these as clichés does not mean that they are never true; it just means that they are the recurring approaches that have appeared in theological appropriations of Derrida, Foucaut, and Lacan (to name the people I have had this experience with). These operations, in their frequency and seemingly universal applicability, demonstrate the strength of theology as an ideology.

For Althusser, ideology is not bad, per se, but is a necessary step in the development of a science. In this sense, I think the question facing theology today is this: is theology as a science conceivable?

I confess that I don’t have an answer to the question, but it seems that theology constantly falls victim to the ideological conundrum: ideologies are not capable of questioning their own problematic. It is only with the irruption of a science, and the changing of the problematic, that the problematic of the ideology and its tautological inertia is revealed.

I am not sure what a science of theology would look like, but I think the development of such a science must begin with an acknowledgment of the changed and changing topography of the intellectual landscape. It is striking that the confessional framework of Christianity remains stated, and thus largely argued, in medieval (or earlier) philosophical parlance. Surely there is room for interaction between theology and current epistemology, phenomenology, ontology, and ethics that departs from the above-mentioned clichés. The difficulty is arriving at a position where one is wiling to approach such an interaction without having decided all the questions posed in favour of one side or the other.