Friday, November 26, 2010


‘Earthly thought embraces perishability (i.e. cosmic contingency) as its immanent core …. such perishability … grasps the openness of Earth towards the cosmic exteriority not in terms of concomitantly vitalistic / necrocratic correlations (as the Earth’s relationship with the Sun) but alternative ways of dying and loosening into the cosmic abyss … The only true terrestrial ecology is the one founded on the unilateral nature of cosmic contingency against which there is no chance of resistance – there are only opportunities for drawing schemes of complicity ... Hence, the Cartesian dilemma, “What course in life shall I follow?” should be bastardized as “Which way out shall I take?”’ -- Reza Negarestani, ‘Solar Infernal and the earthbound Abyss’

Black metal irrupts from a place already divested of nature, a site of extinction, ‘a place empty of life / Only dead trees …’ (Mayhem, ‘Funeral Fog’, 1992); ‘Our skies are forever black / Here is no signs of life at all’ (Deathspell Omega, ‘From Unknown Lands of Desolation’, 2005). As such black metal could be described as a negative form of environmental writing; the least Apollonian of genres, it is terrestrial – indeed subterranean and infernal – inhabiting a dead forest that is at once both mythic and real unfolding along an atheological horizon that marks the limit of absolute evil where there are no goods or resources to distribute and therefore no means of power and domination, a mastery of nothing.

A new word is required that conjoins ‘black’ and ‘ecology’: melancology, a word in which can be heard the melancholy affect appropriate to the conjunction. A new word implies a new concept and we know from Deleuze and Guattari that concepts have to fulfil three criteria. Accordingly, the plane of immanence of melancology is extinction and non-being. All things are destined for extinction; immanent to all being is the irreducible fact of its total negation without reserve or remainder. The development of the characteristics of melancology is to be addressed at the Symposium, of course, but there are already a number of apophasic determinations: it is not ecology, it is anorganic; it is not political economy, it is anti-instrumental; it is not love of nature, environmentalism, Gaia, geophilosophy … But it implies an ethos and a style that delineates the third aspect of the concept, its embodiment in a conceptual personae: the black metal kvltist whose ethos runs across the spectrum of melancholy from bile and rage to sorrow, depression and the delectation of evil all the better to affirm the desolation s/he contemplates in the sonorous audibility of black metal’s sovereign dissonance.

This environment of absolute evil is exactly the same as the absolute good of black metal itself: the expenditure of a sonic drive that propels a blackened self-consciousness, a melancological consciousness without object that is the necessary prior condition to any speculation on or intervention in the environment.

The Black Metal Theory Symposium thus invites speculation and interventions on the blackening of the earth, landscapes of extinction, starless aeon, sempiternal nightmares, black horizons, malign essences, Qliphothic forces from beyond … in a general re-conceptualization of black ecology.

Details and registration HERE

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beyond the Sphere: Getting Lost with Dante

Beyond the Sphere: Getting Lost with Dante
Nicola Masciandaro

Monday, November 22, 8 pm
No. 543 Union St.
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Everyone knows that Dante went to hell and back. “Non vedi tu come egli ha la barba crespa e il color bruno per lo caldo e per lo fummo che è là giù?” [Do you not see how his beard is crisped and his color browned by the heat and smoke that this there below?], a lady is reported by Boccaccio to have said upon seeing the poet in Verona. The underworld is written all over the author’s image. In many circles, from video game consoles to college lecture halls, the Divine Comedy is virtually synonymous with Inferno. The “Paradiso Contrapasso” concept presents a liberation from this stygian fixation. A contamination of paradise with the essential principal of divine punishment? A saturation of eternal torment with celestial, empyreal bliss? Or maybe something more radical than either. The damnation and perdition of the very idea of paradise? Or a penalty that would itself comprise it? The word paradise, from ancient Persian, signifies an enclosed or walled garden. The divine punishment of paradise might then be imagined as the annihilation of its constitutive boundary, an exposure of the garden to what is beyond it. Does paradise disappear? Or does everything become a paradise? My lecture will take this theme as an invitation to read Dante as a radically paradisical poet, one for whom the original and ultimate state of being is never somewhere else, before or after, but is something that must always, and precisely in its absence, always be here. 

[image by Paul Laffoley]

Monday, November 08, 2010

Come cosa che cada: Habit and Cataclysm

        I felt like, and feel like I still am, writing about habit and cataclysm. I put it this way in order to accentuate from the very beginning how habit touches on problems of beginning and ending, of spontaneity and death, of the first impression that is somehow already a repetition and the final impression that somehow is not. As if hidden within habit’s gentle hand there were a secret and terrible shock, a occult trauma that is always already underway and never knows when to stop. Contrary to the stabilizing tendency of the Aristotelian concept of habit (hexis, ethos), Aquinas allows that sometimes a single act can create a habit, for instance, the administration of a self-evident proposition or a drug (Summa Theologica I-II.51.3), although a necessity of repetition is the rule, for “in this the appetite follows a certain tendency in accordance with the mode of nature, as many drops of water falling on a rock hollow it out.”[i] But how do successive drops ever work the rock unless each is also a little bomb and/or the stone primordially flawed, fundamentally at fault?[ii]
In the classic conception of a durable disposition or second nature generated as the effect of action or experience upon its agent or subject,[iii] habit is precisely about what one feels like, in the strong sense of an ontic capacity for actually being similar to something else. The feeling like of habit is substantial, material, corporeal, just as the word like, in its relation to OE lic (body, corpse), signifies a concrete conformation. So the word habit, from habere, signifies corporeal possession, the having or wearing proper to body which is conspicuously de-monstrated by the hand as an instrument of possession operating in concert with the overcoming of inside/outside distinctions proper to consciousness. Thinking habit thus leads one to speak of seemingly impossible self-identical life and intelligence localized in intimate otherness. As Merleau-Ponty says: “habit . . . is a knowledge in the hands. . . . it is the body which ‘understands’ in the acquisition of habit. . . .  the phenomenon of habit is just what prompts us to revise our notion of ‘understand’ and notion of the body.”[iv] As if I ever exist! But I do, precisely in a weird way, in a manner that renders the way of my being, my having a life, both describable and unthinkable, exactly like the Etruscan pirates’ torture taken by Aristotle as proper image of the soul-body relation, in which a living and a dead body “are bound as closely as possible, part fitted to part” and left decompose.[v] Such is the deep binding that the truth of habit uncovers, named by Negarestani as the “vinculum of doom, the bond . . . through which every impetus is subtractively . . . engendered.”[vi] Having a life, being alive, continues to happen to me through a kind of automatic haptic circuit that fuses power and habit, potentiality and custom, into an active, living-decaying disposal of my being, a losing-becoming of myself among active dispositions.
The feeling like of habit is continuous with the feeling like of being, what Maine de Biran called le sentiment de l’existence, the feeling of existence, the vague yet vital inner touching through which all my operations operate, or what Jean-Luc Nancy calls “the cave-body . . . the space of the body seeing itself from within.”[vii] As in Plato’s parable, this cave is a place where we are chained, bound freely to habit by the very having of it, held in place by the habit of habit. The circuit of habit’s recursion is inseparably close to the current of consciousness itself, by which I mean not just awareness, but the whole immanent experiential flow of being. “Habit is the mechanism of self-feeling, as memory is the mechanism of intelligence.”[viii] This current moves like a simultaneous wielding and wearing of being for which the hand is a perfectly monstrous metonym: perfect, because its capacity exemplifies the instrumental spontaneity that is habit’s very telos; monstrous, because the same perfection demonstrates my total distance from it, the fact that I cannot move myself like a hand. As a synthesis of habit and power, the hand materially ex-poses consciousness as a having of having: “The maximal capability of the hand, such that we are led to speak as if its powers belonged to itself rather than to our belonging to them, as if there were such an actual distinct thing as the hand itself, contains the impossibility of understanding the hand as either power or habit, as either a bestowed or an acquired attribute . . . Rather, the hand functions as a perfect conjunction of the two, a conjunction that occurs through the principle of having as the very principle of consciousness itself, the mechanism that makes consciousness a presence to itself. In other words, having a hand, like the self-present consciousness from which it is inseparable, is also a having of having without regress, having something not as an object but as having itself in both senses, that is, both the fullness of having the thing itself and the openness of pure having. Where having is a relation definable as being on the outside of something in such a way that it is within oneself, that it belongs to or is part of oneself, the having of having, as being on the outside of this relation in such a way that it is within, is intelligible as being on the inside of something, having it as already within oneself, in such a way that one is outside it. The former, which corresponds to the possession of a power, is exemplified by holding, whereby something becomes an extension of oneself. The latter, which corresponds to the possession of a habit, is exemplified by wearing, whereby one becomes an extension of something. The hand, in this sense, is a fusion of holding and wearing, an extension of the self that brings the self outside of it.”[ix] This fusion is not unique to the hand. Rather the hand, as living manicule, is indexical of the primal habit of embodiment, the disposition of an entity wielding itself by wearing, and wearing itself out by wielding, a corpse-to-be. As Hegel says, “it is the habit of living which brings on death, or, albeit in a wholly abstract way, is death itself.”[x]
            Peering into habit thus produces visions of limitless synthesis, endless haptic continuity, even across the seemingly impassible/impossible barrier of life and death. Like the Etruscan torture, in which the bodies are tied, as Virgil says, “joining hands to hands, and faces to faces” [componens manus manibus, atque ora oribus],[xi] habit gives the world as thoroughly touching itself through the ever-present capacity of the impression, the filmic nexus of psycho-physical contact,[xii] to palpably carry likenesses across bodies, be they physical, subtle, or mental. As Félix Ravaisson explains, via habit “idea becomes being, the very being of the movement and of the tendency that it determines. Habit becomes more and more a substantial idea. The obscure intelligence where the subject and the object are confounded, is a real intuition, in which the real and the ideal, being and thought are fused together. . . . ideas become more and more the form, the way of being, even the being itself. The spontaneity of desire and intuition is somehow dispersed in developing itself, within the indefinite multiplicity of the organism.”[xiii] Ravaisson thus concludes his book on habit with a vision of infinitely-stepped progression, a  spiral leading back to the very beginning: “Between the ultimate depths of nature and the highest point of reflective freedom, there are an infinite number of degrees measuring the development of one and the same power . . . This is like a spiral whose principle resides in the depths of nature, and yet which ultimately flourishes in consciousness. Habit comes back down this spiral, teaching us of its origin and genesis.”[xiv]
            Such a vision has, in the work of Catherine Malabou, been extended into the universal itself, as if everything were inside the spiral’s turn, producing the unbounded spectacle of an outsideless world of ultimate or absolute plasticity: “Plasticity denotes the form of a world without any exteriority, a world in which the other appears as utterly other precisely because she is not someone else.” Plasticity thus offers, a way out “without exteriority or transcendence . . . a form of flight toward the other from within the closure of the world.” But just as the concept of the plastic, as the very potentiality for form, crosses between the pure creation and the total destruction of shape, so it does it touch, as Malabou explains, the possibility of instant alteration: “To think of the formation of a way out in the absence of a way out, within the closure, is to think about an immanent disruption, a sudden transformation without any change of ground, a mutation that produces a new form of identity and makes the former one explode.”[xv]
            The plastic is explosive. Thinking habit, looking down the endless spiral of becoming, like modeling the beginning of the universe, discovers a detonation, a depth charge that is still exploding, as if hidden in each moment is a deafening tremor, an abyssic shock that only the repetition of habit, the very differential that coils this mortal fuse, allows one to actually,[xvi] in real and literal sense of continual self-enactment, survive. “Habit,” writes Deleuze, “is the originary synthesis of time, which constitutes the life of the passing present.”[xvii] But inside life’s tomb-shrine is a bomb, terrifyingly close at every moment, and now and again felt. Cioran, who suffered the breaking of the most primordial habit sleep, writes: “I feel I must burst because of all that life offers me and because of the prospect of death. . . . I feel my life cracking within me from too much intensity, too much disequilibrium. It is like an explosion which cannot be contained, which throws you up in the air along with everything else.”[xviii]    

             Had I more time I would analyze in depth the several important and  interrelated fault lines that mark the nature of habit and reveal its essential relation to cataclysm. Namely: First, habit as index and site of deep ontic doublings, between first and second nature (Aristotle), will and desire (Augustine), freedom and necessity (Kant)—splits that Ravaisson, influenced by Pierre Maine de Biran’s The Influence of Habit on the Faculty of Thinking (1802), synthesizes in elaboration of the “double law” of habit, according to which habit always presents an opposed effect on its subject: “The contintuity or the repetition of passion weakens it; the continuity or repetition of action exalts and strengthens it.”[xix]
            Second, the paradoxical intimacy between habit and spontaneity. As Ravaisson notes, “The law of habit can only be explained through the development of a Spontaneity that is at once active and passive.”[xx] The spontaneity of habitual operation is instrumental in a surprising way, taking place at an asymmetrical interface between intention and acausality: “When I say that I know how . . . I indicate an obscure presence of a power with which I am in some sense charged. In this conviction I anticipate an certain surprise which the releasing of all the complex, fragile habits also occasions, the surprise of the ease with which, given a sign, a wink, ‘it’ responds to my invitation.”[xxi] The time of habit is thus a- or meta-chronic: “Habit is a mode of presence that cannot be reduced to the present time of the now. . . . the notion of hexis defines a kind of time within time (chromos) could . . . exhibit a strange ability to double itself.”[xxii] So in Charles Sanders Peirce’s “speculative evolutionary cosmogony”[xxiii] according to which “matter is not completely dead, but is merely mind hide-bound with habits,”[xxiv] habit defines a mutable zone of touch between present time and its extra-cosmic exterior. For Peirce, the origin of cosmos and its continuation via seemingly universal laws is grounded in the echoing chaos of “an infinitesimal germ accidentally started,”[xxv] so that laws (which in their non-absoluteness are more like cosmic customs) are not only products of an originary absolute spontaneity,[xxvi] but a “certain swerving of the facts” or “continuous irruption of chance (into the evolution of laws).”[xxvii]
            Third, the gravity between habit and annihilation, as if buried in the being of habit, essential to its fact, is the necessity of its own utter undoing. This gravity may be thought as a kind of preemptive negation of the negativity of the possibility of an absolute plasticity, which would render being an endless self-enclosure, the interminable imprisonment of groundless becoming. Is there not, on the inside of all habit, something dead set against, not necessarily what it is, but that it is, an inevitable compulsion within the very creativity of habit to bring it to total annihilation, a covert counterinsurgency against our inescapable complicity with anonymous materials?[xxviii] In Ravaisson, this gravity is bent, contra Paul (Rom 7:23), into the anti-gravity of identifying habit and freedom, flesh and liberation: “habit is not an external necessity of constraint, but a necessity of attraction and desire. It is, indeed, a law, a law of the limbs, which follows on from the freedom of spirit. But this law is a law of grace. It is the final cause that increasingly predominates over efficient causality and which absorbs the latter into itself.”[xxix] So for Dante, the process of ethical habituation arrives at a power beyond power: “This mountain is such that ever at the beginning below it is toilsome, but the higher one goes the less it wearies. Therefore, when it shall seem to you so pleasant that the going up is as easy for you as going downstream in a boat, then you will be at the end of this path.”[xxx] Yet here, in the recognition of the end of path as such, in its being ordered towards its own after (the after finitude to which all philosophical alpinism hopes to but does not actually arrive), there breathes the deeply premodern understanding of habit as radical binding, as the very fastener of correlational, or impressioned consciousness, of being bound to the subject/object connection. In fact it is precisely from this that theory, as visionary flight, would flee, dwelling in the hut of unrealized intimacy with the summit, every thought a perverted desire for and an escape from the labor of real ascent. “Most people,” says Aristotle, “take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way.”[xxxi] As thought seeks being, so habit, the engine of becoming, evokes the desire for a becoming beyond becoming, for a fuel that would drive it to annihilation. In the face of the omnipotent newness of the present, how can habit have a real future? “Habit is the eternal yesterday,” says Arendt, “and has no future.”[xxxii] This does not mean that there will be no habits tomorrow, but that habit is a relic, something that, however long it endures, is always already over, however impossible its disappearance appears. In fact it is so over, that the annihilation of its ever having been is a special kind of illusion, or miracle, the wondrous dissolution of the illusory. “The word for ‘miracle’,” writes Chittick, “is ‘breaking the habit’ (kharq al-‘āda). Etymologically a ‘habit’ (‘āda) is ‘that which returns.’ In fact, says Ibn al-‘Arabī, there is nothing habitual, since everything is constantly renewed and nothing ever returns: ‘In reality, the situation is new forever, so there is nothing that returns, so there is no breaking of habit’.”[xxxiii] So Dante’s entry into Paradise is defined, not by perfection of the regular exercise of virtue, but by the necessary spontaneity of true, instructionless pleasure: “Non aspettar mio dir più né mio cenno; / libero, dritto e sano è tuo arbitrio, / e fallo fora non fare a suo senno” (Purgatorio 27.139-41) [No longer expect word or sign from me. Free, upright, and whole is your will, and a fault it would be not to act according to its pleasure].
            Having now accidentally demonstrated habit’s implicative and praeteritic logic, how it arises even, and sometimes especially, from the intention not to do something, two tasks remain: 1) making my point; 2) arriving at the end of my subject. Just as making a point is (on the sculptural model) a subtractive process of arriving at the wieldable potentiality a material minimum capable of piercing into fixed solids, so my point is that the creative thought of habit, the one I want to make into a habit of thought, is the thought of habit as the necessary agent of its own spontaneous decay towards its original shocking differential. Necessary, because there is no getting anywhere and no leaving home without it. “Sanskaras [impressions] are not only responsible for the evolution of the form (body) and the kind of consciousness connected with it, but they are also responsible for the riveting of consciousness to the phenomenal world.”[xxxiv] Spontaneous, because there is no other way to think the emergence of the real immanence of what is beyond or outside habit. Such decay is not demise, but the negative emergence of spontaneous being into the subject, and thus the arrival of post-subjective individuality. Here it must be noted how perfect an emblem the Etruscan torture is for the otherness of I, Rimbaud’s “Je est un autre.” Just as, for Plotinus, “the products of putrefaction are to be traced to the Soul’s inability to bring something other into being,”[xxxv] so the decay of habit signifies the arrival of its own ontic limit. As habit is ordered toward the production of specific capacities for spontaneity, so is habit itself a kind of scaffolding for the internal production or bringing into presence from within of unlimited spontaneous being. In other words, spontaneity is habit’s own plane of immanence, “the most intimate within thought and yet the absolute outside—an outside more distant than any external world because it is an inside deeper than any internal world.”[xxxvi] In Meher Baba’s cosmology, this is termed the unwinding of impressions: “In the process of winding, sanskaras become instrumental for the evolution of consciousness though they also give sanskaric bindings; and in the process of unwinding, sanskaric attachments are annihilated, though the consciousness which has been gained is fully retained.”[xxxvii]
            That habit fulfills itself in decay opens the way to an appreciation of the deeper relation between rot and resurrection in medieval thought. Augustine, for whom the production of habit is the inescapable, auto-binding effect of the fracture or fault in the human will,[xxxviii] understood resurrection via Lazarus as a figure for entombing habit: “The third kind of death is that of Lazarus.  It is a monstrous kind of death, and it is called evil habit.  For it is one thing to sin, another to make a habit of sinning.  He who sins and is immediately corrected soon revives, for he is not yet entangled in habit, he is not yet entombed.  He, however, who has become habituated to sin, is entombed, and about him it is rightly said, ‘he stinks.’  For he begins to have the worst reputation, just like the most horrible smell.  Such are all those accustomed to crime, lost in morals. You say to him, ‘don’t do that.’  But when will he hear, he whom the earth thus presses down, who is corrupted with decay and is weighed down by the massive burden of habit?”[xxxix] Although Augustine here reads Lazarus’s rot as only the disgusting sign of sin, we may also read it in a relation to the formal overlap between illness and putrefaction in the gospel account, the sense in which the whole event of Lazarus’s resurrection encompasses at once the pre- and post-mortem state of his body, and indeed depends upon illness as its efficient cause. “’Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ but when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.’ . . . ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’” (John 11:3-39). The miracle formally requires Lazarus’s sickness and putrefaction, a requirement that suggests a deeper relation between rot and resurrection, and, via Augustine, a figure for thinking habit as the very disease of life, yet a disease that subtractively opens into life’s beyond, not as an exterior that is simply there to be found after life, but a new interior that is actually produced by its own vermicular movement. So Ravaisson finds in the nature of illness “the divine secret of the transmission of life, as of a creative idea, which detaches and isolates itself in the transport of love for life that is its own life.”[xl] 
            The conversion scene of the Confessions realizes this possibility in a dynamic spectacle grounded in the resurrective potentiality of the tomb of habit as a critical space of cataclysmic renewal, a place where, at once against and by its will, the self decays itself into divinity. “You, Lord, turned me back toward myself, taking me from behind by own back, where I had put myself all the time that I preferred not to see myself. And You set me there before my own face that I might see how vile I was, how twisted and unclean and spotted and ulcerous. I saw myself and was horrified: but there was no way to flee from myself. . . . You were setting me face to face with myself.” Facing the habit of the flesh (consuetudo carnalis), Augustine wrestles with the sickness of his soul (aegritudo animi) in form of a horrible body that evokes both the figure of Lazarus and Aristotle’s Etruscan torture metaphor, on which he had commented a few years earlier: “Did not the philosophers who thought these things perceive . . . the heavy yoke [grave iugum] upon the children of Adam?” As the idea of corpse-as-yoke suggests, the habit of flesh goes deeper than sinfulness and signifies the very having of body, the habit of fallen embodiment, or the habit of habit. Commenting on the many bodily acts he performed in the passion of his irresolution (cunctationis aestibus), Augustine discovers habit’s self-doubling function by thinking about his hand: “The mind commands the hand to move and there is such readiness that you can hardly distinguish the command from its execution. Yet the mind is mind, whereas the hand is body. The mind commands the mind to will, the mind is itself, but it does not do it. Why this monstrousness (monstrum)? . . . It is . . . no monstrousness, partly to will, partly not to will, but a sickness of the soul to be so weighed down by habit that it cannot wholly rise even with the support of truth.” The body is the site of a volitional bicephalousness that can only be resolved through the torturous task of facing oneself in fear of the death that one is already living: “My soul hung back. . . . All its arguments had already been used and refuted. There remained only trembling silence (muta trepidatio): for it feared as very death the cessation of that habit of which in truth it was dying.”
            Now I can at last speak what I first had in mind, the text that I have been speaking about all along. This is the one cited before the colon in my title, a sign that marks (and makes) for us the intimate and generative schism between text and commentary, poetry and philosophy, a FAULT, as Agamben articulates, in the word itself, necessary for our having of it. Sneaking up on my object it this way, in reverse, like a hermeneutic suicide bomber packed in his own commentary, I hope to set off the citation as shock, after Benjamin: “Where thinking suddenly comes to a stop in a constellation saturated with tensions, it gives that constellation a shock, by which thinking is crystallized as a monad.”[xli] Like the spontaneous citation or sortes that serves as the axis of Augustine’s conversion, re-orienting him to the new present, this shock is the proper thrill of living, dis-habituating discourse, which “does not aim to perpetuate and repeat the past but to lead it to its decline in a context in which past and present, content of transmission and act of transmission, what is unique and what is repeatable, are wholly identified.”[xlii] And since, as Nietzsche says, “all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown, perhaps unknowable, but felt text,”[xliii] this shock is also a representation and repetition of the originary cataclysm of monadic consciousness, its first impression: “[The] first experience of the infinite Soul was that it (the Soul) experienced a contrariety in its identity with its infinite, impressionless, unconscious state. This experience of contrariety effected changeableness in the eternal, indivisible stability of the infinite Soul, and spontaneously there occurred a sort of eruption, disrupting the indivisible poise and the unconscious tranquility of the infinite Soul with a recoil or tremendous shock which impregnated the unconsciousness of the unconscious Soul with first consciousness of its apparent separateness.”[xliv]

Like something that falls (Come cosa che cada) comes from the moment in Purgatorio in which the poet suddenly feels the island-mountain of Purgatory tremble: “[Noi] brigavam di soverchiar la strada / tanto quanto al poder n’era permesso, / quand’ io senti’, come cosa che cada, / tremar lo monte; onde mi prese un gelo / qual prender suol colui ch’a morte vada” (Purgatorio 20.125-9) [We were striving to overcome the road as fast as possible when I felt, like something falling, the mountain tremble; whence a chill seized me such as seizes one who goes to death]. The cause of the tremor remains uncovered until a soul, his arrival is compared to Christ’s appearance on the road to Emmaus, “già surto fuor de la sepulchral buca” (Purgatorio 21.9) (new-risen from the sepulchral cave), and who turns out to be Statius, explains its resurrective significance: “Tremaci quando alcuna anima monda / sentesi, sì che surga o che si mova / per salir sù . . . / De la mondizia sol voler fa prova,/ che, tutto libero a mutar convento, / l'alma sorprende, e di voler le giova. / Prima vuol ben, ma non lascia il talento / che divina giustizia, contra voglia, / come fu al peccar, pone al tormento. / E io, che son giaciuto a questa doglia / cinquecent' anni e più, pur mo seniti / libera volontà di miglior soglia: / però sentisti il tremoto” (Purgatorio 21.58-70) [It trembles here when some soul feels itself pure so that it may rise or set out for the ascent . . . Of its purity the will alone gives proof, which takes by surprise the soul, wholly free now to change its convent, and avails it to the will. It wills indeed before, but the desire consents not, which Divine Justice sets, counter to the will, toward the penalty, even as it was toward the sin. And I, who have lain in this pain five hundred years and more, only now felt free volition for a better threshold. Therefore you felt the earthquake].

[i] (Thomas Aquinas, In decem libros ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum expositio, ed. Pirotta and Gillet [Torino: Marietti, 1933], II.1.249.
[ii]Plasticity, then, in the wide sense of the word, means the possession of a structure weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once. Each relatively stable phase of equilibrium in such a structure is marked by what we may call a new set of habits” (William James, The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols. [New York: Holt, 1918], 1.105).
[iii] “One sort of quality let us call ‘habit’ or ‘disposition’.  Habit differs from disposition in being more lasting and more firmly established.  The various kinds of knowledge and of virtue are habits, for knowledge, even when acquired only in a moderate degree, is, it is agreed, abiding in its character and difficult to displace, unless some great mental upheaval takes place, through disease or any such case.  The virtues, also, such as justice, self-restraint, and so on, are not easily dislodged or dismissed, so as to give place to vice” (Aristotle, Categories, 8.8b30, tr. McKeon).
[iv] Maurice Merleau-Ponty,  Phenomenon of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 1962), 166-7.
[v]Ex quibus humanae - inquit - vitae erroribus et aerumnis fit, ut interdum veteres illi, sive vates, sive in sacris initiisque tradendis divinae mentis interpretes, qui nos ob aliqua scelera suscepta in vita superiore, poenarum luendarum causa natos esse dixerunt, aliquid vidisse videantur: verumque sit illud quod est apud Aristotelem, simili nos affectos esse supplicio, atque eos qui quondam, cum in praedonum Etruscorum manus incidissent, crudelitate excogitata necabantur, quorum corpora viva cum mortuis, adversa adversis accommodata, quam aptissime colligabantur; sic nostros animos cum corporibus copulatos, ut vivos cum mortuis esse coniunctos [Cicero, Hortensius]. Nonne qui ista senserunt, multo quam tu melius grave iugum super filios Adam et Dei potentiam iustitiamque viderunt, etiamsi gratiam, quae per Mediatorem liberandis hominibus concessa est, non viderunt?” (Augustine, Contra Julianum, 4.15 <>).
[vi] Reza Negarestani, “The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo,” Collapse IV: Concept Horror (2008): 160.
[vii] Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus, trans. Richard A. Rand (New York: Fordham, 2008), 67. See also Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation. 
[viii] (Hegel, Philosophy of Mind, §410)
[ix] Nicola Masciandaro, “The One with a Hand: An Essay on Emodiment, Labor, and Alienation,” Rhizomes 19 (2009) <>,
[x] Philosophy of Mind, trans. William Wallace
[xi] Aeneid, 8.486.
[xii] See Scott Wilson, “NEURaCINEMA and the Filmy Essence of Consciousness,” Amusia
[xiii] Félix Ravaisson, Of Habit, trans. Clare Carlisle and Mark Sinclair (New York: Continuum, 2008), 55, translation modified.
[xiv] Ravaisson, Of Habit, 77.
[xv] Catherine Malabou, Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing, 67.
[xvi] “Being is actualitas. Something exists if it is actu, ergo, on the basis of an agere, a Wirken, a working, operating or effecting (energein). Existence (existere) in this broadest sense . . . means Gewirktheit, enactedness, effectedness, or again, the Wirklichkeit, actuality, that lies in enactedness (actualitas, energeia, entelecheia)” (Martin Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, tr. Albert Hofstadter [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988], 87. Caputo explains, “As a translation of the Latin existentia, Wirklichkeit refers to the fact ‘that’ a thing is. This in turn is distinguished from ‘what’ a thing is, which is a mere ‘possibility’” (John D. Caputo, Heidegger and Aquinas: An Essay Overcoming Metaphysics [New York: Fordham University Press, 1982], 83). Such an understanding of being’s actuality is in harmony with and exemplified in a practical manner by Aristotelian ethics which, grounded in the phenomenology of habit (ethos), is fundamentally about the passages between, the interbecomings of doing and being. Habit is a principle that makes all action self-work (a making of what we are) and all being self-labor (an enduring of what we do). How habit is a mechanism of such passages, a bridge between being and doing, is explained by Aquinas’s definition of habit as the result of a relation between active and passive principles within the agent: “Possunt in agentibus aliqui habitus causari, non quidem quantum ad primum activum principium, sed quantum ad principium actus quod movet motum. Nam omne quod patitur et movetur ab alio, disponitur per actum agentis, unde ex multiplicatis actibus generatur quaedam qualitas in potentia passiva et mota, quae nominatur habitus” (Summa Theologica I-II.51.2, Opera Omnia, ed. Roberto Busa [Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1980]) [habits can be caused in agents, not according to the first principle of the act, but according to the principle of the act that, being moved, moves. For everything that receives and is moved by something else, is disposed by the act of the agent, whence by many acts a certain quality is formed in the passive and moved power, and this is called habit]. Habit is thus the effect or impression of an inner working which attends upon and happens through all action, an operation or making which stands outside the intentions of the agent. One may form habits intentionally, but the production of habits itself is automatic, natural, part of the actual, enacted-enacting character of one’s being. Beyond its intentions, human being is continually impressing itself with its own actions and this process of impression shapes our being, makes us what we actually are. Aquinas compares the production of habit to the shaping of stone by drops of water and the increase of habit to the intensification of heat in matter (Summa Theologica I-II.52.3). Together these images succinctly express the principle that action is a work that modifies being. And this principle plays out, or is the experiential translation of, the understanding of being as actuality, Wirklichkeit. And within the context of the temporality of being, that is, our experience of being as becoming or being-in-time, habit is more specifically the basis for a quantitative increase of being by doing. For Aquinas, this quantitative correlation ultimately expresses and derives from the shared nature of mind and matter: “Augmentum, sicut et alia ad quantitatem pertinentia, a quantitatibus corporalibus ad res spirituales intelligibiles transfertur; propter connaturalitatem intellectus nostri ad res corporeas, quae sub imaginatione cadunt” (Summa Theologica, I-II.52.1) [Increase, like other things pertaining to quantity, is transferred from corporeal quantities to spiritual and intelligible things, on account of the connaturality of our intellect for corporeal things, which fall within the imagination]. It is on the basis of such a correlation, which translates from action’s quantity to being’s intensity, that it makes sense for people to speak of “being more” for having done something. Describing the same phenomenon from the other side, as it were, Dante understands action even more explicitly as a disclosure and increase of being: “Nam in omni actione principaliter intenditur ab agente, sive necessitate nature sive volontarie agat, propriam similitudinem explicare. Unde fit quod omne agens, in quantum huiusmodi, delectatur; quia, cum omne quod est appetat suum esse, ac in agendo agentis esse quodammodo amplietur, sequitur de necessitate delectatio, quia delectatio rei desiderate semper annexa est. Nichil igitur agit nisi tale existens quale patiens fieri debet” (Dante Alighieri, De monarchia, ed. Pier Giorgio Ricci [Verona: Mondadori, 1965], 1.13.2-3, my emphasis) [For in all action what is principally intended by the agent, whether he acts by natural necessity or voluntarily, is the disclosure or manifestation of his own image. Whence it happens that every agent, insofar as he is such, takes delight. For, because everything that is desires its own being and in acting the being of an agent is in a certain way amplified, delight necessarily follows, since delight always attaches to something desired. Nothing acts, therefore, without being such as what is acted upon is supposed to become]. Action discloses me, pro-duces me, makes me present, visible, as a self-likeness, to myself and others. As a production of presence, action is an intensification of being. Action does not simply reproduce me, does not produce me in the weak sense that action, whether as doing or making, expresses or signifies something about me, such as a thought, feeling, or habit I happen to have. Action enacts or makes me, in the stronger sense, as an actuality, that is, on the basis of my existing as or being such a thing that is already and thus can be enacted or made. Action thus has the character of a self-production grounded in the always already produced nature of existence, in the fact of being. And the increase or intensification of being that happens through action has the character of a circulation of the original, impossible gift of being, a recreation of createdness, a throwing of thrownness. Action gives us our own being, realizes it as our existence, and thus holds, behind whatever other kind or order of mood or feeling is held towards it, the delight of a pure reception, of receiving oneself, of being a gift. At least action holds this deep delight, a delight in actuality itself, insofar as the deeper assumption here made, namely, that beings do in fact desire their own being, holds.
[xvii] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia, 1994), 80.
[xviii] E.M. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair, trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 8.
[xix] Ravaisson, Of Habit, 49. On the double law of habit, see Clare Carlisle, “Between Freedom and Necessity: Félix Ravaisson on Habit and the Moral Life,” Inquiry 53 (2010): 123-45.
[xx] Ravaisson, Of Habit, 55.
[xxi] Paul Ricoeur, Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary, trans. Erazim V. Kohák (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1966),  289.
[xxii] Catherine Malabou, The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporailty, and Dialectic, trans. Lizabeth During (London: Routledge, 2004), 55.
[xxiii] Alberto Toscano, Theatre of Production, 123-128.
[xxiv] Charles Sanders Peirce, “The Law of Mind,” in The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, Eds. Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992), 1.331.
[xxv] The Essential Peirce, 289.
[xxvi] Cf. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist” (Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, 180).
[xxvii] Toscano, Theatre of Production, 124-5.
[xxviii] “I cannot fully identify with my capacities: there is something in habit which resists me. Everyone feels that there is something artificial in the reasoning which derives the concrete power of habit from the idea of the possible and reabsorbs aptitude in the act. . . . If I am tempted to give my bodily aptitudes and my knowledge a semi-reality outside myself, it is because habit has the character of semi-nature which resists my effort to conceive of it in the first person” (Paul Ricoeur, Freedom and Nature, 296).
[xxix] Ravaisson, Of Habit, 57.
[xxx] “Questa montagna è tale, / che sempre al cominciar di sotto è grave; / e quant’ om più va sù, e men fa male. / Però, quand’ ella ti parrà soave / tanto, che sù andar ti fa leggero / com’ a seconda giù andar per nave, / allor sarai al fin d’esto sentiero” (Purgatorio 4.88-94).
[xxxi] Nicomachean Ethics, 1105b.  Cf. “discernerem atque distinguerem, quid interesset inter praesumptionem et confessionem, inter videntes, quo eundum sit, nec videntes, qua, et viam ducentem ad beatificam patriam, non tantum cernendam sed habitandam” (Augustine, Confessions, 7.20) [I could discern and distinguish what difference there was between presumption and confession, between those seeing where to go but not seeing how, and those seeing the way leading to the blessed homeland, which is not only to be discerned, but dwelt in].
[xxxii] Love and Saint Augustine, 83.
[xxxiii] William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Iban al-‘Arabī’s Metaphysics of Imagination, 99. “There are three dangers which may keep you from examining yourself, making the accounting of your acts, and being thankful to your generous Lord. The first of these dangers is unconsciousness, heedlessness. The second is the flood of tastes and desires that gush from your ego, your lower self. The third is bad habits, in fact all habits, which make one like a machine. The one who can protect himself against these three dangers, with Allah's help, will find salvation in both worlds” (Ibn Arabi).

[xxxiv] Meher Baba, Discourses, 6th ed., 3 vols. (San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented, 1973), II.141.
[xxxv] Enneads, 5.9.14
[xxxvi] What is Philosophy?, 59.
[xxxvii] God Speaks, 234.
[xxxviii] See James Wetzel, Augustine and the Limits of Virtue (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1992).
[xxxix] “Tertius mortuus est Lazarus. Est genus mortis immane, mala consuetudo appellatur. Aliud est enim peccare, aliud peccandi consuetudinem facere. Qui peccat et continuo corrigitur, cito reviviscit: quia nondum est implicatus consuetudine, non est sepultus. Qui autem peccare consuevit, sepultus est, et bene de illo dicitur, fetet: incipit enim habere pessimam famam, tanquam odorem teterrimum. Tales sunt omnes assueti sceleribus, perditi moribus. Dicis ei, Noli facere. Quando te audit quem terra sic premit, et tabe corrumpitur, et mole consuetudinis praegravatur?” (In Joannis evangelium tractatus CXXIV 49.11.3, PL 35:1748).
[xl] Of Habit, 65.
[xli] On the Concept of History, XVII.
[xlii] Giorgio Agamben, “Walter Benjamin and the Demonic: Happiness and Historical Redemption,” in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 153. Walter Benjamins “ideal was a book that would eliminate all commentary and consist in nothing but quotations” (Françoise Meltzer, “Acedia and Melancholia,” in Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History, ed. Michael P. Steinberg [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996], 162). Why? Because “in citation old and new are brought into simultaneity” (Eva Geulen, “Counterplay: Benjamin,” chapter 4 of The End of Art: Readings in a Rumour After Hegel, trans. James McFarland [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006], 87): “To the traditionalizing effects of commentary, Benjamin . . . opposes the citation as shock, which shatters the continuum and which does not resolve itself in any solution of continuity; and, on the other hand, the citation as montage . . . in which the fragments come into connection in order to form a constellation intelligible to the present” (Phillipe Simay, “Tradition as Injunction: Benjamin and the Critique of Historicisms,” in Walter Benjamin and History, ed. Andrew Benjamin [London: Continuum, 2005], 147). Cf. “Such knowledge (gnosis) does not consist in the construction or perception of an ideology. It is the product of ripening experience that attains increasing degrees of clarity. It consists in man’s consciousness becoming more real and participating increasingly in the truth, until there is nothing more to become, and nothing more to assimilate” (Meher Baba, Discourses).
[xliii] Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, ed. Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 76.
[xliv] Meher Baba, God Speaks, 10-11.