“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, February 01, 2009

back to the universal history - of infamy

In 1810, Jan Potocki sent Joseph de Maistre an essay in which Potocki speculated that there were several floods that happened in several regions at several epochs of the earth’s history. De Maistre sent back a letter defending Biblical chronology. He divided his defense into sections, beginning with the metaphysical. About which he says:

“It [metaphysics] teaches that everything has been made by and for the intelligence; that man began with science, and not in a state of barbarity, as all of the 18th century school falsely and stupidly supposed; that the perfectibility of man and his taste for science is only the secret instinct of his nature, which moves him to return to his native state; that the state of the savage, which one has called the state of nature, is precisely the contrary of nature and the last degree of human degredation; that it is thus impossible to reason worse than those have done who argue the state of sciences at a point in time distant from antiquity in order to suppose a crowd of anterior centuries necessary for gradually leading up to such a state of human knowledge. We cry out: how much time was necessary to arrive at this point! – Plato would respond to us: without a doubt, if nobody learned was taught what they would have learned… The human families that depart from the state of barbarism have nothing in common with primitive man, who was, following the happy expression of Seneca, Diis recentes.” Maistre, correspondance, 238

I don’t know if De Maistre ever read William Paley and his famous example of the design of the world – a watch found out in the grass. Paley’s point was that such a watch indicated intelligence. But de Maistre would see under that comparison the degenerate theory of evolution, or progress – for there are no single watches in the world. Watches are produced by watch factories, and watchmakers use instruments and parts that evolved elsewhere – for instance, the little grooved wheels that first evolved for taking water out of wells – to make the watch. Design leads us to evolution, which leads us inevitably to progress. De Maistre, of course, sees the world in inverse terms, as a place that is condemned by original sin and only redeemed by the son of God. In his strict theology, there is no progress.

De Maistre is the metaphysician of the reaction. He of course knew Jan Potocki and his family. He knew him as a fellow mason. I’ve been threading about Marx’s notion of universal history in the Grundrisse. Deleuze and Guattari in the Anti-Oedipus asked, how can we find enough innocence to make universal history? Much of Anti-Oedipus is devoted to showing how universals were made, under the aegis of capitalism and the familialism that characterizes the Great Transformation – thus neatly bringing together two of my themes, that of free love and that of the role played by universal-makers in the construction of the World System. Potocki and de Maistre were both aware of, and both working on the margins of, the fashion, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, for universal histories.

I wanted to backtrack from Marx to the formation of reactionary alienation. Since, more and more, I’ve come to think of Jan Potocki as a leading character in The Human Limit, it is fortunate that some of de Maistre’s most revealing letters were written to him.

Or rather, not fortunate. Around Potocki there comes into play myriad coincidences – he is a connector, a man with very short degrees of separation from many of the players in the transatlantic Revolutions. In other letters, Maistre refers to Potocki as a man who has helped him get books. He described Potocki going off to war in 1808, against Napoleon, bringing with him several Indian cockatoos – de Maistre loved the dandyish gesture.

Yet, in his letter to Potocki, he takes it upon himself to caution that irreligion is the infallible mark of scum – canaille.

13 comments:

P.M.Lawrence said...

"Watches are produced by watch factories".

They are now, but they weren't then.

roger said...

Well, it is true enough that watchmaking was a cottage industry, but, as Bailey and Barker put it in their essay on 17th century Watchmaking in South West Lancashite, "It seems unlikely that any one craftsman could produce specially-tempered steel springs, steel pinions, brass wheels, frames and dials and the often elaborate and costly cases, though there was probably no division of labor in the manufacture of movements at the outset... Later... the "watchmaker" though himself usually a trained man, spent all his time organising the actual manufactures and selling the finished product."

northanger said...

talking about watches: 27 to 23, 35 seconds to go.

roger said...

What can I say, North? Steelers are a killing machine. As for the cardinals, w-w-w-w-welcome to the jungle, baby!

Anonymous said...

LI, this is probably going to be another of my off-track comments. I don't won't to go off on watches though the post and and a comment above about watches now and watches then, does make think of how at a certain time clocks were shot at and stopped. In a time of revolution.
I've been thinking of the two passages from de Maistre that you quote. The first one with its question of nature/science or nature/art makes me think of de Maistre's vehement dispute with Rousseau. The stakes are the nature or science of man, or an anthropological question. Or better the very status or foundations of anthropology. The stakes are also politico-theological . Which your second quote brings out with the question of canaille - scum.
De Maistre is, as you point out, a metaphysician of the reaction and with a theological view of history. The metronome of which is sacrifice. Which not only references - obviously - Christ, but another historical/political figure.

. . . We are continually confronted with the tiresome image of innocents perishing along with the guilty. But, without delving into that question, which is of the greatest profundity, we may consider it solely in relation to the age-old universal dogma of the reversibility of the sufferings of the innocent for the benefit of the guilty.
It was from this dogma, I believe, that the ancients derived their universal practice of sacrifice, which they judged of value not merely for the living but even for the dead; a routine procedure that habit lets us observe without surprise, but whose roots are nonetheless obscure.
. . .
The coming of Christianity consecrated this dogma, which is infinitely natural to man, although it seems difficult to derive by logical reasoning.
Thus there may have been [at the moment of his execution] in the heart of Louis XVI, and in that of the heavenly Elisabeth, an emotion (mouvement), an acceptance capable of saving France. (Considerations on France (1796), III)

well, I'm not going to try and expand on this quote. Though I wonder if it cannot be related to Marx and the Eighteenth Brumaire. And to our present economic crisis in which some people will bear the brunt of the "sacrifice" - canaille.

Amie

P.M.Lawrence said...

Bailey and Barker are mistaken, not in what they supposed one ordinary journeyman could have done from their list but in what they supposed was necessarily involved. Steel springs, for instance, were uncommon before the invention of the reverbatory furnace (for just that reason) in the early 18th century (then again, so were watches, so maybe the former was a limiting factor on the latter). The ingenuity of the craftsman lay in finding alternative methods that could be undertaken with the resources he had. See the epic story of Harrison and the chronometer for some background. However, as a matter of complete and thorough apprenticeship training, a master of the craft could have done any part of the work himself, or he wouldn't have full mastery of the craft and thus the capacity to supervise journeymen.

A historical oddity is that the requirements for watch making and gun making overlapped, since both products needed to be cheap yet accurate, precision made yet robust and reliable under field conditions. Thus the trades and their practitioners merged somewhat from the synergy. Later still, the same considerations led to a joining of gun making, the early car and motor cycle industry (e.g. BSA), and even typewriter (e.g. Remington) and piano (e.g. Yamaha) manufacture.

northanger said...

AQ 695 = JOHN HARRISON AND THE LONGITUDE PROBLEM = THE GOOD LIFE. AN ANCIENT GREEK PERSPECTIVE = THE PARABLES CHAPTER OF THE LOTUS SUTRA.

AQ 621 = "REALIZATION" OF MARX'S PHILOSOPHY (Humanism gives Marx’s magnum opus its force and direction. Yet most Western scholars of Marxism are content either to leave the relationship between the now famous Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844[3] and Capital implicit, or to make the continuity explicit only insofar as the ethical foundations of Marxism are concerned.[4] This leaves the door wide open for those who wish to transform Marx’s humanism, both as philosophy and as historic fact, into an abstract which would cover up concrete economic exploitation, actual lack of political freedom, and the need to abolish the conditions preventing “realization” of Marx’s philosophy, i.e., the reunification of mental and manual abilities in the individual himself, the “all-rounded” individual who is the body and soul of Marx’s humanism; AQ-338 RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA, AQ-400 MARX'S HUMANISM TODAY) = KEPLER'S HARMONICES MUNDI EXPLAINED = MAJOR FRENCH PHILOSOPHERS OF THE 1960S (AQ-1352 EMMANUEL LEVINAS, JACQUES DERRIDA, MICHEL FOUCAULT, GILLES DELEUZE, FÉLIX GUATTARI; AQ-768 THE GEOPHILOSOPHIES OF DELEUZE AND GUATTARI) = THE LAW OF SIMULTANEOUS CONTRAST (AQ-381 MICHEL EUGENE CHEVREUL, AQ-1921 CHEVREUL'S DISCOVERIES ARE REPORTED IN HIS VOLUMINOUS BOOK OF 1839 ENTITLED "THE LAW OF SIMULTANEOUS CONTRAST") = TRANSITION FROM ARIES TO TAURUS (But no doubt the judgment of the Adepts Exempt (for it is they who determine, under the guidance of the Masters of the Temple, all such details of doctrine) in respect of this card has been influenced by its transition from Aries to Taurus. It is too often forgotten that Taurus is the House of Venus, and that Luna is exalted therein. The new doctrine set forth in this present Essay makes the primary colour of Earth not black, but green; it insists that every Disk is a living and revolving symbol. The central thesis of the Book of the Law asserts the Perfection of the Universe. In its pantheistic conception all possibilities are equal in value; each and every Point-Event is "a play of Nuit"; AQ-265 PRINCE OF DISKS).

AQ 1012 = JOHN HARRISON AND THE INVENTION OF THE MARINE CHRONOMETER = GIVE A MORE DEFINITE REPRESENTATION OF THIS FUTURE EVENT (AQ-197 XX. THE AEON) = THE DOCTRINE IS THUS SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN NEARLY UNIVERSAL (AQ-270 THE HOLY GHOST) = THERE IS NO DEVIL, NO EVIL, OUTSIDE MANKIND TO PRODUCE A DEVIL = TWIN-TRACK APPROACH: IMPROVE THE CHIP, IMPROVE THE BIOLOGY = WE COULD EASILY TAKE CONTROL OF THE MECHANISM OF ACHIEVEMENT (AQ-512 WELL-WRITTEN, THINLY ARGUED).

northanger said...

AQ-286 HUMAN GENERATOR.

northanger said...

AQ 811 = THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THE LATITUDE PROBLEM (AQ-199 G. C. COMSTOCK) = AETHYR OF THE MATHEMATICIANS AND THE PHYSICIANS = BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE CONSTELLATION PEGASUS = BRITAIN, THE SLAVES AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION = BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THE HISTORY = CAPITALISM'S DOMINANCE OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM = CLEAR AND UNALTERABLE INSTRUCTION ON PURITY = COLLAPSE OF ATOMS INTO A SINGLE QUANTUM STATE = INTRINSICALLY SUPERIOR TO THE ART OF THE DEAL = IT IS SOWN IN DISHONOUR; IT IS RAISED IN GLORY = PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN - AT WORLD'S END - END CREDITS = RUNNING THE NUMBERS: AN AMERICAN SELF-PORTRAIT = SWORD IN EDWARD SAVAGE'S "THE WASHINGTON FAMILY" = THE MOST DIFFICULT ARENA WE HAVE YET PENETRATED = THE PATHS FORMING A CURRENT 1-2-6-8-9-10 ON THE TREE OF LIFE.

AQ 332 = SECULAR VARIATION = THE FEDERAL TRIANGLE.

AQ 368 = THE LATITUDE PROBLEM = A PARABLE FROM POTOCKI = SWORD OF THE SPIRIT = WASHINGTON'S FAMILY.

AQ 623 = THE SECULAR VARIATION OF LATITUDES = THE EXIGENCIES OF THE SUBJECT MATTER.

AQ 802 = LONG TERM MOVEMENT OF THE NORTH MAGNETIC POLE = EVIL INCARNATE: THE ARCHETYPE OF THE ANTICHRIST.

AQ 1192 = ON THE RELATION OF THE PERIODIC AND SECULAR VARIATIONS OF THE LATITUDE = A COMPLETE AND ORDINATED ALPHA-QWERTIAN DICTIONARY (OECUMENIC VERSION) = A DIAGONAL PATH BETWEEN ESOTERIC NUMEROLOGY AND EXOTERIC MATHEMATICS = DOING SOMETHING, AND THEN ONLY AFTERWARDS, FINDING OUT WHY YOU DID IT (AQ-141 PRAXIS) = SO FAR,THE US FINANCIAL SECTOR HAS BEEN THE EPICENTRE OF THE GLOBAL CRISIS = THE CAHIERS DU COLLÈGE DE PATAPHYSIQUE N°22 (DECEMBER 2005), COLLÈGE DE 'PATAPHYSIQUE.

northanger said...

AQ 4820 = ECONOMIC DATA RARELY INSPIRE POETIC THOUGHTS. BUT AS I WAS CONTEMPLATING THE LATEST SET OF NUMBERS, I REALIZED THAT I HAD WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD: "TURNING AND TURNING IN THE WIDENING GYRE / THE FALCON CANNOT HEAR THE FALCONER; / THINGS FALL APART; THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD" (AQ-308 THE WIDENING GYRE) = THE TITLE WHICH HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED FOR MY PAPER, "THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THE LATITUDE PROBLEM," IMPOSES UPON ME THE NECESSITY OF EXPLAINING IN WHAT THE LATITUDE PROBLEM CONSISTS, SINCE I CAN NOT ASSUME THAT THE TERM THUS EMPLOYED WILL BE WELL UNDERSTOOD EVEN IN SCIENTIFIC CIRCLES.

AQ 2832 = FOURIER, THE DREAMER, CHARMINGLY FORETOLD / THAT LEMONADE WOULD FLOW IN SEAS. / DOES IT NOT FLOW? / THEY DRINK SEA-WATER, / CRYING: / "LEMONADE!" / RETURNING HOME SECRETLY / TO VOMIT. (AQ-397 SOCIALISM AND HUMANISM; AQ-3715 DON'T KEEP TELLING US THAT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTER WHEN WE ALL KNOW DIFFERENTLY, CRIED OUT ADAM WAZYK IN HIS FAMOUS POEM FOR ADULTS WHICH APPEARED IN THE POLISH WEEKLY NOVA CULTURA, AUG. 21, 1956. HERE IS A KEY STANZA:).

AQ 1161 = YOU SAY YOUR BELLYBUTTON'S MISSING, THERE'S NO REASON FOR ALARM = THESE TWO BRONZE HEADS SPEAK AND PRONOUNCE CLEARLY ENTIRE PHRASES = THE FORMULA OF THE PRINCESS, THE MODE OF FULFILMENT OF THE GREAT WORK (AQ-238 IX. THE HERMIT).

AQ 414 = CENTRAL TENSION POINT = BELLY BUTTON MONSTER = CONGRESSUS CUM DAEMONE = EXTREME FINANCIAL EVENT = FLASH OF CREATIVE GENIUS = GLOBAL PEAK INTENSITIES = GODDESS OF GOOD FORTUNE = GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY = LEXARPH - COMANAN - TABITOM = NUMBER SYMBOL SWARMS = SPLINE INTERPOLATION (AQ-286 ANALYTIC·SPLINE) = THE STORY OF THE DOUBLE.

AQ 587 = A CONCEPT IN DIFFERENTIAL GEOMETRY (AQ-345 ASYMPTOTIC CURVE; AQ-215 ASYMPTOTE) = BY THE SIGHT OF THE EYE MAY BE KNOWN, דתלתא אלין אחד (AQ-96 1 JOHN 5:7; 9757) = KINGDOMS - REAL AND GHOST CULTURES (AQ-289 KOSANCICEV VENAC 7) = LONG-TERM NON-PERIODIC VARIATION (AQ-332 SECULAR VARIATION) = MARX'S UNIVERSALITY GENERATOR (AQ-476 QUEST FOR UNIVERSALITY) = THE INDICATION OF THIS SYMBOLISM (AQ-286 WALL-GIRT MOUND) = WITHOUT ANY EXTERNAL INFLUENCE = WRITING ITSELF IS A FORM OF ACTION (Ron Silliman (New Sentence 4); AQ-647 POETRY OF PLAY, POETRY OF PURPOSE).

AQ 400 = MARX'S HUMANISM TODAY = BOOTING UP THE NEW AEON = BORROWERS AND LENDERS = COMPLETED THE FIRE-CHANGE (AQ-286 WALL-GIRT MOUND) = FIERY SWORDS OF LIGHT (AQ-219 I. DE MERCURIO) = HUMAN FACTORS IN DESIGN = INCONCEIVABLE, POSSIBLE = SABBATH DAY OF ETERNITY (AQ-211 ARYEH KAPLAN, AQ-286 ShBTh GENERATOR) = STONE - BLOOD - RED POWDER (And this is the stone of the philosophers that is set as a seal upon the tomb of Tetragrammaton, and the elixir of life that is distilled from the blood of the saints, and the red powder that is the grinding-up of the bones of Choronzon; AQ-70 PAZ, AQ-328 BLOOD OF THE SAINTS, AQ-328 RED POWDER OF BONES) = THAT THESE THREE ARE ONE (AQ-96 1 JOHN 5:7; 9757) = THE IRRESISTIBLE URGE = THE WASHINGTON FAMILY = THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD.

AQ 417 = TOMB OF TETRAGRAMMATON = NAMU SHARIHOTSU SONJA (AQ-2415 OF THOSE THINGS THAT ARISE FROM A CAUSE, / THE TATHĀGATA HAS TOLD THE CAUSE, / AND ALSO WHAT THEIR CESSATION IS: / THIS IS THE DOCTRINE OF THE GREAT RECLUSE {AQ-552 YE DHARMĀ HETUPRABHAVA - CAUSATION}; AQ-2415 THE LOOP IS A SERIES OF FOUR CONCENTRIC BANDS LIKE THE ROSE CROSS, ABOUT A CENTRAL CIRCLE. THE CENTRAL CIRCLE IS QUARTERED BY A VERTICAL GREEK CROSS {AQ-263 LIBER LXXVIII}; AQ-328 FLOWER-LIGHT BUDDHA).

AQ 3727 = IF WE SYSTEMATICALLY ATTEMPT TO CALL INTO DOUBT AS MUCH OF OUR KNOWLEDGE AS WE POSSIBLY CAN, WE WILL EVENTUALLY REACH A POINT THAT IS IMPERVIOUS, AND THEN OUR KNOWLEDGE CAN BE BUILT ON THE BEDROCK OF ABSOLUTE CERTITUDE (AQ-1313 THE POLITICS OF SACRIFICE IN ADORNO AND HORKHEIMER'S DIALECTIC OF ENLIGHTENMENT) = RIVAROL WROTE AN ESSAY ON THE UNIVERSALITY OF FRENCH - YOU DIDN'T THINK WE WERE GIVING UP THE UNIVERSAL THREAD, DID YOU? THAT WON THE PRIZE AND MARKED, ALTHOUGH RIVAROL DIDN'T KNOW IT, THE END OF A CERTAIN ANCIEN REGIME TONE = WORDS ALLOW US TO EXPRESS RESERVATIONS ABOUT OUR COMMITMENT TO THE TRUTH OF WHAT WE ARE SAYING, AND THAT THE INTRODUCTION OF SENSE-DATA ADDS NOTHING TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF OR ABILITY TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE SEE (AQ-342 SENSE AND SENSIBILIA).

AQ 434 = UNIVERSAL SALTY TASTE = LABOUR AS SUBJECTIVITY (AQ-269 MARX'S INSIGHT).

northanger said...

AQ-594 ON TIME AND LABOR IN THE GRUNDRISSE (Bruno Gullì; AQ-404 LABOR AS SUBJECTIVITY)…

AQ 1554 = NON-OBJECTIFIED LABOUR, LABOUR WHICH IS STILL OBJECTIFYING ITSELF, LABOUR AS SUBJECTIVITY (In one of his most remarkable texts, 'AQ-423 HISTORICAL MATERIALISM', in AQ-406 IL RICORDO DEL PRESENTE, AQ-227 PAOLO VIRNO comments on AQ-269 MARX'S INSIGHT that capital seeks in the worker the only thing that it cannot advance itself: AQ-1554 • AQ-434 LABOUR AS SUBJECTIVITY) = 50. STAND THOU FAST, AND I SHALL PASS THE FIRST VEIL TO SPEAK WITH THEE, THROUGH THE STARS SHAKE (AQ-104 LIBER 49) = CAUGHT IN A TIRESOME PERMANENT STATE OF EMERGENCY TO WHICH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GET USED TO (This journey through the political philosophy of language ends with a confrontation with the foundations of the edifice of political theory: the distinction between state of nature and civil society. In AQ-336 MULTITUDE AND EVIL Virno questions and challenges the idea that a society's radical opposition to the state is directly proportional to its faith in the benevolence of human nature and argues for a political institution that resembles language, its negativity and ability to be nature and history at once. Few thinkers take the risks required by innovation. Like a philosophical entrepreneur, Virno is engaged in no less than re-writing the dictionary of political theory, a needed and ambitious project when, caught in a tiresome permanent state of emergency to which it is impossible to get used to, language desperately needs to articulate and enact new practices of freedom for the multitude; AQ-555 MOTTO DI SPIRITO PAOLO VIRNO) = HENCE THE STUDY OF THE PHASE SPACE OF EMPIRICAL SYSTEMS IS TRANSCENDENTAL GEO-PHILOSOPHY (AQ-768 THE GEOPHILOSOPHIES OF DELEUZE AND GUATTARI) = MAINTAINING A STRICT DISTINCTION BETWEEN VIRTUAL SINGULARITIES AND THE ACTUAL SYSTEM (AQ-768 THE GEOPHILOSOPHIES OF DELEUZE AND GUATTARI).

roger said...

North, you are flowing!

culture_vulture said...

Fascinating stuff - what's your source? I'm curious, because I'm researching Potocki myself...