Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Note on Negative Equation (from SoB)


Negative equation is a form of statement whose logic is both untenable and necessary, impossible and inevitable. It represents a manner of discoursing about the real which lies beyond the propriety of naming. It is a mode of assertive or cataphatic apophasis that, rather than speaking away from language, stays within the negative curvature of a space that is opened by twisting language against itself. In these terms, negative equation proceeds as an intimate, confluent counterpoint to mystical discourse itself.[1] Where traditional mystical discourse orbits around the singular unspeakable identity of the individual and God, the logical process of negative equation discloses similarly remote planets of truth in more local or immediate regions of being. The negative equation offers a kind of untenable yet indispensable axiom whose meaning lies less in coherent statement but in its speaking according to a radically immanent yet inherently hidden or foreclosed truth. The intellectual procedure of negative equation is thus also comparable to François Laruelle’s non-philosophical concept of ‘mystic-fiction’ as a coming discourse which abandons the occult status of the mystical secret in favor of its immanence as secret:

La pratique future renonce à prétendre penser l’Un par l’Un, ou avec l’Un, et pense le rapport au mystico-philosophique selon l’Un, elle expose le Secret qui fait les Humains par axioms et theorems . . . Il n’y a plus de secret ou de mystere ‘caché’ telle une boîte noire au cœur de l’Un ou de Dieu, en réalité au cœur du Logos. Mais un secret qui reste tel qu’un secret que ne transforme pas sa révélation ‘formelle’ puisqu’il est déjà révélé. Un révélé-sans-révélation, un secret (de) l’Un déjà donné pour le Monde, secret de l’humilité que sa communication n’entame pas.[2]

[The future praxis renounces pretending to think the One by the One, or with the One, and thinks the mystico-philosophical relation according to the One; it exposes the Secret that makes Humans through axioms and theorems . . . No more is there a secret or a mystery ‘hidden’ like a black box at the heart of the One or of God, actually at the heart of the Logos, but a secret that remains like a secret which does not alter its ‘formal’ revelation because it is already revealed: a revealed-without-revelation, a secret (of) the One already given by the World, a secret of humility that its communication does not cut into.]  

In place of an account or explanation of the Secret, the logic of negative equation offers a photographic revelation of its identity, an irrevocable giving of its radical immanence.[3] As a form of mystico-philosophical theorem, the negative equation sees with the sorrow of being, pro-viding it in an accordant form that fulfills the simultaneous double sense of the exposure here defined by Laruelle, namely: 1) exposure by means of axioms and theorems of the Secret which makes humans; and 2) exposure of the Secret which makes humans by means of axioms and theorems. It is precisely this doubleness of exposure which is evident in the Cloud’s definition of perfect sorrow as a definition one is to sorrow over: “And whoever has not felt this sorrow, he should sorrow, because he has never yet felt perfect sorrow.” To understand the sorrow of being requires participation in this procedure of giving mystical truth, a giving which erases givenness and sets thought in an immanent posture of non-difference vis-à-vis ontologically disparate terms, in this case, feeling perfect sorrow and sorrowing that one does not feel it. In other words, negative equation operates in participation with the mystical text’s characteristic refusal of the epistemic normativity of philosophical discourse, the textuo-intellectual charade of sufficiency which is thought’s evil, its instantiation of “the reduction of the taking-place of things to a fact like others, the forgetting of the transcendence inherent in the very taking-place of things.”[4] Like Meillassoux’s demand that we “project unreason into things themselves,”[5] negative equation represents a (counter)intuitive speculative move that leaps beyond the correlational structure of philosophical reasoning, the philosopher’s decisional staying within the dialectical circle of having and answering questions about the world. The intellectual leap of negative equation is a form of definition that escapes definition’s hermeneutic utilitarianism, its being for the sake of discourse. Overstepping the pursuit of questions concerning the relation between seemingly irreconcilable categories (e.g. individual and universal, thought and being), it asserts the independent profound reality within the question’s essential negativity. In sum, negative equation anchors definition to the openness of its own ground:  “We define only out of despair. We must have a formula, we must even have many, if only to give justification to the mind and façade to the void.”[6]


[1] This intuitive hermeneutic strategy of negative equation is similar to that of ‘apophatic analogy’ as articulated by Thomas A. Carlson in relation to an indiscrete relation between Heideggerian being-toward-death and Dionysian being-toward-God: “I find myself prohibited, by the very terms of the analogy, not only from identifying those terms but also from distinguishing them—for the terms themselves cannot be given determinate, identifiable content; indeed lacking the determinacy or identity of any ‘what,’ the terms indicate that which would remain, in and of itself, unknown and unknowable” (Indiscretion: Finitude and the Naming of God [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999], 17). Ultimately, this indiscrete relation exceeds restriction to the theological and thanatological and opens to the “nonexperience at the center of experience” (262). As such, the apophatic analogy offers a method of resourcing the mystical tradition beyond its putative restriction to religious experience and restoring the understanding of mystical truth to ‘ordinary’ experience, where it is all along: “There is nothing irrational in true mysticism when it is, as it should be, a vision of Reality. It is a form of perception which is absolutely unclouded, and so practical that it can be lived every moment of life and expressed in everyday duties. Its connection with experience is so deep that, in one sense, it is the final understanding of all experience” (Meher Baba, Discourses, revised 6th ed. [North Myrtle Beach, SC: Sheriar Foundation, 2007], I.7). In keeping with Carlson’s privileging of the relation between givenness and impossibility, we may say that the negative equation also offers a way of ‘giving’ experience to itself via the ‘impossibility’ of its inherent non-identity.

[2] François Laruelle, Mystique non-philosophique à l’usage des contemporains (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007), 61.
[3] The immanent perceptual essence of science as immanent knowing has been theorized by Laruelle through the concepts of photographic-stance and vision-force: “To the transcendent paradigm of philosophy which remains within onto-photo-logical-Difference, we oppose the stance of the most naïve and most intrinsically realist knowledge, a stance that appears to us essential—more so than calculation and measurement—to the definition of the essence of science” (The Concept of Non-Photography, trans. Robin Mackay (Falmouth, UK; New York: Urbanomic/Sequence, 2011). The connection between science and mysticism in these terms, as contiguous perceptions of an inherently divine reality, may be found in Charles Sanders Peirce’s understanding of the scienticity of experience: “By experience must be understood the entire mental product . . . Where would such an idea, say as that of God, come from, if not from direct experience? . . . as to God, open your eyes—and your heart, which is also a perceptive organ—and you see him. But you may ask, Don’t you admit there are any delusions? Yes: I may think a thing is black, and on close examination it may turn out to be bottle-green. But I cannot think a thing is black if there is no such thing to be seen as black . . . It is the nominalists alone, who indulge in such skepticism, which the scientific method condemns” (Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler [New York: Dover, 1955], 377-8).
[4] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 14.
[5] Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 82.
[6] E. M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Arcade, 1975), 48.