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May 24, 2005


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Bill Wilson

Dear Jodi Dean:
I see that in "The Politics of Avoidance" you mention "...religious and market fundamentalism," opening with, “In the United States, religious and market fundamentalism impresses itself on global and domestic practices of knowledge, law, governance, mobility, personhood, hospitality, and justice,” and concluding with suggestions "...if we are to oppose the market and religious fundamentalism threatening the world today." I note that in The Empire's New Clothes you write of "American fundamentalisms,--Christian and capitalist" (p.319). The analogy is used frequently, as by Nick Spencer, at EBR: "...it is possible to view the faith in capitalism... ...as a form of fundamentalist Being..." In my terms, methods of thought can construct the objects of thought. If both capitalisms and transcendental religions think with the same style of concepts, they will, as constructions of faith founded on an original revelation, or constituted by a priori rational axioms, resemble each other. The use of the same concepts for two different systems like capitalism and transcendental religion can be constructive if the systems overlap illuminatingly or productively; but the overlap can also blur the concepts, as I think that “market fundamentalism” does. You are thinking about overlapping concepts elsewhere when you raise “…the question of [Judith] Butler’s separation of condemnation and critique,” for you would have “condemnation and critique” overlap in relations of mutual implication and reciprocal modification. You are wary of an overlap between “… freedom and security, as if these concepts fit easily together,” and report the tragic overlap that “…all three branches of the US government have acquiesced to the use of torture.” A difference emerges when you withdraw one of the overlaps you otherwise share with Stephen White: “In affirming a kind of theoretical friendship among theorists from differing traditions, he [White] avoids the stark, intractable, and explicit divisions of contemporary global politics. In affirming a kind of theoretical friendship among theorists from differing traditions, he avoids the stark, intractable, and explicit divisions of contemporary global politics.” The overlapping of concepts is in question here, that is, the functions of overlappings in thought, and the validity of a proposed overlap between transcendentalist modes of thought and technical modes of thought (R. G. Collingwood, Essay on Philosophic Method, is a source for thoughts about overlapping concepts in religion and the history of philosophy). For the transcendentalist, transcendental religion and capitalism (or other economic systems) do overlap inseparably. In contrast, any technology of economics undoes overlaps in behalf of specifiabilities and any differences a lawyer can find. A fundamentalist religion, trying to build on a foundation derived from eternity and infinity, is technically different from technological capitalism that constructs its foundations retroactively, if at all. If capitalism thinks like a transcendental religion, as though supported by a fundamental constitution of revealed principles, then it might base investments on divine epiphanies or other revelations (Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, gives a fictional account of using the Bible to guide the purchase of stocks). Transcendental religions are constructions of faith, hence they differ from theories and practices that are constructed by belief. Empirical belief is also skeptical belief, because it is answerable to proof, evidence, experiment and other verifications. Thus resemblances between "...religious and market fundamentalism" are misleading because, even if they are thought about the same way, the two systems do not think the same way. Transcendental religious fundamentalism and liberal post-modern capitalism differ in the ways in which they found themselves. A difference arises between a constitutional religion founded on revelations of the purposes of God, and a capitalist system of markets that looks not at a priori purposes, but at purposes that can be served in the construction of a system that builds its constructivist foundation retroactively, , a posteriori, in that the foundation is strengthened and secured by the structures that are built upon it. A transcendental religion may claim a foundation in a transcendental realm, an eternal divine Reality miraculously revealed to faith by a mediating prophet who may have a negative relation to money and to the market. In contrast, a capitalist system has only a retrospective foundation that shifts with changes in the continual process of construction and reconstruction of the economy. The massive capitalist system constructs its foundation under itself, retroactively, the way that in Pisa, an architect proposes, but a Tower disposes. With each development of capitalism, (the whole must be re-historicized because its foundation is under constant renovation. The mass of a self-developing system constructs its foundation, unless the system collapses because it has elaborated itself into illusions that don’t construct a working foundation upon productive structures, functions and meanings (Enron). Religious fundamentalists, who have faith that they are building on a prior foundation that has been given to them, are not going to acknowledge a constructivist foundation that reacts to the structures that are built upon it (ever so much like the constructed island upon which the Hong Kong Airport has been built with the engineered hope that the buildings will eventually settle the island). Religious fundamentalism and capitalism differ in their images of foundation because they use concepts differently. Transcendental thought does not differentiate like technology, it encourages overlappings, just as any transcendence lets in any other transcendences that allow other overlaps: “Everything that rises must converge.” Whether or not it should be, the idea of transcendence is conveyed by the image of vertical ascent. Slavoj Zizek, “Ethical Socialism? No thanks!,” Telos, #129, Winter 2004, writes of the art of dancers who have been seen to rise and, “as if, for a short period of time, they succeeded in suspending the law of gravity. And, effectively, is such an effect not the ultimate goal of the art of dancing?” Well, no, because for fifty years choreographers and dancers have attempted an anti-illusionism and detheatricalization of dance in behalf of immanences, and in opposition to futile aspirations to transcendence. Why would anyone in 2005 want to suspend the law of gravity, or to suspend gravity? Zizek is making his technical point, that drive and desire do not overlap, but when he writes that in dance, “…the linear progress of time is suspended,” he approaches T. S. Eliot’s Anglican transcendences: “At the still point of the turning world.” “…at the still point, there the dance is.” How is the concept of “dance” being thought? What idea of “concept” is at work? Religion and capitalism think with different methods of thought, that is, they have different methods of handling concepts. Religions try to interpret or to renovate the ambiguous concepts in a founding revelation of truth that conduces to salvation, and capitalisms try to innovate concepts as foundationless novelties that can be made to serve monetary purposes if they can be floated. In transcendentalisms, concepts overlap, as in the overlaps among beauty, truth and goodness (Emily Dickinson, "I died for beauty..."). In capitalisms, concepts are as differentiated as concepts in technology, so that overlaps are the problem to be solved, of course case-by-case. When secular capitalisms devise “financial instruments,” one specific bond must be differentiated from other bonds. Even in Islam, a mortgage must be rationally differentiated from usury, while credit cards and pawn-brokerage can be reconstrued to outwit some divinely revealed laws against money reproducing itself like a living entity (Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program http://www.irti.org/ru1.htm). Thus "neo-capitalism” is differentiated from Islamic capitalism, because interest “earned” by money must be differentiated from money earned by work. Of course even the most technological capitalism can be concealed behind marzipan rhetoric [Marzipan: from obsolete Italian, fine box for rare coins or comfits, perhaps from Arabic maw ab n, king on the throne, Byzantine coin with enthroned Christ figure.] Looking away from money, in lateral collaboration with Paul A. Passavant rather than with a transcendental muse, you have written about gifts to society that cannot be repaid, inspiring one "…to give another gift." Your concept of gift overlaps a concept of response, such as I am offering with this note, hearkening to Robert Frost: “He would cry out on life, that what it wants/ Is not its own love back in copy-speech,/ But counter-love, original response.” You write in behalf of the concept of gift, which as you write, feet on the ground, is a horizontal and lateral relation occurring within the immanences. (The complexity of gift is manifest in Marilyn Strathern, The Gender of the Gift). The thinking from which concepts like “gift” “love” and “hope” emerge includes some spatial diagrams like the horizontal in contrast with the vertical, which is associated with transcendence, as though the transcendental is above our heads (I wrote three notes to a website on the themes in these images: http://cbertsch.livejournal.com/245156.html). Your image of "gift" is horizontal, like a lateral pass, an image that might be used in the technology of capitalism, for example in "insider trading” that passes the word between intimates, even unto inmates. The difference is manifest in American football, wherein a Hail Mary pass rises toward the sky, apparently transcending physical forces while confirming a sense of the miraculous. A Hail Mary Pass transcends probabilities within fields of material forces, relying as it does on non-material prayer that calls upon Mary. Here images that overlap can overlap in several directions, perhaps omnilaterally: Mary in her transcendences is the Mother of God, a Lantern, a Fountain, an Enclosed Garden, a Lily, a Burning Bush and a Flowering Rod. In contrast, technological capitalism can rarely afford to think with images like metaphors, except for “junk” bonds, but it can change designations, as it can for example pretend that a payment in cash is a “gift,” perhaps responding to a gifted executive. One “trophy” house that has been built for a billionaire includes a “gift-wrapping” room, so that the concept of “gift” needs careful description in industrial-strength capitalism, where one can apply to receive a “free gift,” while many pragmatic concepts get “gift-wrapped,” like corporations advertising their gifts to public television. The concept of “gift” can open toward transcendentals, given the current expert on transcendental gifts, Catherine Pickstock, After Language. Trying to remain among immanences, Heidegger says of existence, “Es gibt.” What is the source of a gift such as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt mention: “(If you find your body refusing these ‘normal’ modes of life, don't despair--realize your gift!).” If one were grateful for “the gift of life” like G. K. Chesterton, whom would one thank? Well, instruments of faith can be used to give thanks for the gift of faith bestowed on one of the faithful by a transcendental God. The questions become about differences and samenesses: are gifts horizontal among immanences, or are gifts vertical within transcendentals, aspiring to become adequate responses for “gifts” like life and faith? Your own examples of gifts suggest self-sacrifice, the gift of oneself, as in an act of love in a lateral and horizontal reciprocity. Your responsive gift would evoke gifts as lateral responses, with the hope of omnilateral gifts among omnilateral responses. Such a network would not need or hope for an ontological foundation prior to itself as the ever-emerging structure of a self-constructing and just society, answerable to a constitution that is answerable to constituents. A constructivist community, always yet to secure its foundation retrospectively, must stand on its own, relying on the images of structure implied by Kurt Goedel’s theorems which rendered idealist mathematics foundationless, yet left it coherent. Unfortunately for politics, the horizontal network of omnilateral love can become a community for people who do not long for religious transcendentals, but that community has to little to offer people who enjoy the transcendentals of idealist religions, while also participating in their network, their pious congregation. In the events of this June, many a father will exercise his formal power and right to give away a daughter in marriage. In contrast, your gift of yourself in your work suggests self-possession, while it does, or it doesn’t, overlap self-negation, depending on one’s style of thinking as it constructs the content of thought. In myths and rituals, self-negation qualifies a person to mediate between two full realms, for example, between the transcendental and the immanent. But negation is not to be found within materialities and physical forces, so that while adherents of a transcendental religion and its politics can pronounce “No” as their participation in a transcendental continuum---“Thou shalt not…”---a thoroughgoing materialist has no foundation for negations, and is unlikely to qualify as a mediator between realms of existence. That is, a strong ontology becomes impossible, so that a foundationless horizontal rhizomatic politics, emerging from immanences, and enlisting nomadic bootstrapping trailblazing bricoleurs, cannot meet on a level battleground with transcendentally founded vertical faith-based politics that enlists politicians who have an elective affinity for transcendental religions.
Your work raises questions about the materiality of a gift and the physicality of faith, hope and love. One of the complications emerging from thinking about both transcendental religion and any of the capitalisms in terms of faith is that the objects of faith are not material, while the objects of belief are material. Art as aesthetic illusion can easily yield to transcendentalisms, but becomes a problem for any materialism because an aesthetic illusion is not material (hence anti-illusionist dance of Yvonne Rainer: “The Mind is a Muscle”). An aesthetic illusion occur within physical events as a kind of negation of materiality. Perhaps aesthetic illusions can be explained physiologically in terms that satisfy a materialist, a positivist, and even a behaviorist, reducing the apparently transcendental to the material, so that art is more to be explained away than to be explained. Religions usually enjoy the benefits of religious art, if only because, in an overlap available to transcendental religions, aesthetic illusions are constructed with and conveyed by materials, but are not in themselves material. Aesthetic illusions that displace matter can be used as models for the way angels and demons exist, as non-material spiritual entities, and as examples of the mode in which spiritual concepts like good and evil exist, less definable than recognizable through the eye/mind of faith. Any aesthetic illusion provides grounds for hope that transcendental entities exist the way an aesthetic illusion exists. Heidegger writes that Greeks looked at a marble statue and saw a god. I say that the Greeks look at an aesthetic illusion, and saw an immaterial mode in which gods exist, precisely the mode in which Good, Beauty, Truth and religious “Hope” exist. You write that from Hardt and Negri's perspective, "...hope is political." Their political hope is lateral, horizontal, and among immanences, while contrasting religious hope is vertical, pivoting toward absolute transcendence. See: “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul…” The word “thing” would respond to treatment since “things” are precisely what are not outlined with specific names, which is the same as the tendency of hope to overlap faith and love. That the “thing” perches in the “soul” might yield to Hardt and Negri’s innovative denotations, but neither “thing” nor “soul,” or for that matter “hope,” can be defined, described or prescribed by specifying operations on materials. Political hope must be specifiable, as in the promises of party-platforms. Yet while popular religious hope can also appear to be specifiable--as in hoping for 72 virgins in a pool--the hope of a specific multitude of brides overlaps dignified scriptural hopes that blend into it, as when the abstract concepts of one allegory smoothly overlap the abstract concepts of another allegory. Submission to the will of Allah is a self-negation that reveals a submissive soul that is rewarded with the submission of women and servants in Paradise (“Mohammed Atta” means “submissive soul.” In a strategy that seems unintelligible to secular Euro-Americans within the North Atlantic Treaty, and even to American Christians whose contracts with God are problematic, a Muslim can make a contract to transcend the material world and physical life. A religious life that founds actions on contracts with God may not overlap a constructivist life that performs without ontological contracts. A problem for reciprocity is that religious hopes for Paradise, and political hopes for medical care and for housing, don't overlap abstractly into one collective hope. In practice health and housing can overlap in specific examples, but they do not become identical: both health and housing have margins beyond their common area of overlap. The problem for neo-liberal thinking, at this stage of postmodernism in Europe and in the United States, is that people thinking technologically must specify and differentiate in accord with empiricisms. At the same time, they must both tolerate transcendental religions and accept the impossibility of refuting transcendentalist modes of thought wherein concepts overlap. Here is an sprawling example: the positivist and the empiricist either commit themselves to a constructivist mathematics, or they use numerals that stand for eternal and immutable numbers dwelling in a transcendental continuum that is the mathematical Reality. Such numbers are transcendental, and because transcendental, in actual street-smart use such as hoping that a bet on #9 will win, they overlap other transcendentals such as divine blessings or gifts that are multiples of #9, like those 72 virgin brides. Many of us hope for La Vita Nuova, but specify it differently from Dante, in whose world-poem Beatrice is the number 9. That is, the eternal number 9 projects itself into the world as Beatrice, whose last name, Portinari, contains 9 letters. Beatrice, according to James Joyce in Ulysses, is also an isosceles triangle. The Beast of Revelations is 666, so that Ronald Reagan changed the numerals in his Californian address; a Route 666 has been the locale of evil; and a Social Security number has been changed lest a child be doomed by the number 666 acting at a distance with its power of malevolent mediation. A problem is that even changing the number is unforgettable, like numbering the 13th floor as the 14th floor, and changing the meaningless number of an air-flight after a plane has crashed. A tragedy for rational empiricists occurs when energy is wasted by evolutionists answering “creationists,” astronomers answering astrologers, and mathematicians answering priests. One predicament of the post-enlightenment liberal whose thoughts are shaped by a technological template is that numbers must be used, yet inescapably, any natural number can be appropriated as a supernatural number. Certainly infinities can be left out of practical or utilitarian calculations of an architect’s world-design, but an architect, Daniel Libeskind, acknowledges the mystical power of numbers 12 and 18. Those numbers were also acknowledged by Barnett Newman, who for a period used the name behind Barnett, “Baruch,” that is, “blessing,” overlapping both Dante’s Beatrice and Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, of Pride and Prejudice (Bennett is a variant of Benedictine). Another way to state the difference between supernatural and natural thinking is to say that spiritual entities and abstract objects are often predicable of each other, so that an angel can receive and can grant honor, because the angel exists the way Honor exists. Because Honor is not a material quantity, calculable numerals cannot be assigned to it, yet Honor has incalculable autonomous power, chronicled in the tragedy of honor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. We have no specifications for how to construct honor so that it wouldn’t overlap diffusely with any abstract values, any more than we have instructions that specify how to construct angels or demons from a blueprint. We have no more rules for recognizing honor than we do for demons: “The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil, and the devil hath power/ T'assume a pleasing shape.” On television, “Joan of Arcadia” often sees and speaks with God, who is manifest in people not even she expects to be God. Her God is neither deduced from ontology (the Ontological Argument), nor induced by the evidence of experience (the Cosmological Argument), but is a readily-available coach who often suggests that minute actions and concrete changes can have huge effects. Small causes of large effects can seem to be miracles, like the miracles of aesthetic illusions that are so much more than materials add up to (Joan’s boyfriend is a sometime constructivist sculptor). This, my over-long comment, is attached to one point: people with faith in a transcendental God think differently from people with belief in technological processes . The spiritual overlaps of abstract concepts—“Beauty is truth, truth beauty…”—have effects in politics. Nowadays, politicians committed to any one of the several transcendental faiths tend to overlap each other even as their concepts find agreement with each other, even with one sense of atonement attuning itself to other senses of atonement (many senses of “at-one-ment become “at-one”). As latter-day religious politicians dilute theologies with lukewarm concepts in order to make alliances among themselves, they overlap religion and politics so that religion and politics might become identical, with no secular margins. In contrast, secular liberal thought is committed to a technological mode in which overlaps are dissolved in analysis of specifiable differentiations. In the U.S., politicians of transcendental religions are answerable to God, not to liberals who remain answerable to those politicians, and who cannot denounce the omnilateral transcendentals of religious thought because they cannot renounce their own inescapable transcendentals. The gracious thought, “All is One,” is but bleakly answered by “All is not One.” Jackson Pollock, a pantheist who titled several paintings “One,” was willing to decorate a Catholic chapel, which after all could be subsumed as part of the whole One. Barnett Newman titled two paintings “Onement,” as in the familiar at-one-ment. My politic enemies can bring many different experiences and concepts to bear upon each other so that they give the illusion of belonging together and mattering to each other, at least among ecumenisms wherein the God of Catholics overlaps other Christian Gods, although not quite the God of Baptists. Liberal resentment against these religions has rarely been expressed, or expressed as carefully, as by Wallace Stevens, who resents that transcendental religions appropriate actual images from the physical world as hypothetical images to convey ideas of Heaven:
…do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set our pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!

You ask, “Why cultivate a tolerance or generosity toward practices and positions that are deeply wrong?” The predicament is perplexing, especially when in a liberal arts college one is teaching multi-religious students who are not studying to become emancipated, disenchanted or demythologized, and who, nowadays, are not supposed to learn negations of their world-designs, but are to have their self-esteem enhanced. In practice, criticisms between transcendental religion and immanentist philosophy cannot be fair or equal exchanges, if only because the religious can invoke “truth” more absolutely and readily than any liberals emancipated from absolutisms. Another understanding of a relation to truth, not so much relativist, but meliorist and hopeful, is that while truth is not reached, it can be approached, as with Martin Heidegger’s “moving into nearness” toward truth, and Michael Polanyi’s infinite approach to a reality that can never be captured: “Reality is something that attracts our attention by clues which harass and beguile our minds into getting ever closer to it, and which, since it owes this attractive power to its independent existence, can always manifest itself in still unexpected ways” (however Polanyi complemented his scientific realism with Christian mystical Realism). Certainly transcendentalists in practice may or may not feel and act answerable to immanences, and can criticize the immanentists for a false philosophy. But Liberals, and what I’ll sketch as philosophers committed to immanences, cannot criticize the quality of transcendental religions because they must not humiliate people for the qualities of a rancid faith they were born into, and have not been emancipated from. They would not humiliate a person for qualities over which the person can have no control: a color of skin, an unusual name, a deficiency or excess of height, stupidity, lack of education, perhaps even morbid fatness. Aristotle says as much in “Poetics,” limiting comedy to “self-chosen unfreedoms” of mind and spirit such as boasting, presumption and pretension, not big noses. The self-chosen unfreedoms of the immanentists do not allow them to dissolve the philosophic theologies of transcendence, not even when balloons are released at funerals to represent the ascent of the soul toward a vertical heaven. As I have suggested, the impasse is that liberals, democrats, and even materialists cannot prevent themselves from using some transcendentals. Because of overlaps among transcendental concepts and images, if you use one transcendental, you might as well use them all, because we can find no place to draw a hard line limiting overlaps between rational transcendentals like numbers, and irrational transcendentals like angels. I can sum up my point with the example that communicants and the other faithful of a transcendental religion allow competing parts of a divided self to transcend division with an indivisible soul. “Soul” is understood as separable from the body, perhaps as an eternal spark thrown off by the Divine Light, temporarily dimmed by the world, but rekindled in prayer and ritual in order to be continuous with fiery divinity. Hardt and Negri quote Robert Musil on “the production of soul” (Empire 285; E289), but then they translate “the production of soul” into “the process of becoming human.” But the concept “soul” is seamless and unscientific, indefinable except as an animating form which has a freedom of form, with “freedom” and “form” always yet to be defined ideally with Plato or biologically with Aristotle (see F. Buytendijk for life as the freedom of form). Plants and animals might have souls in the sense of animating forms, but they are not human, yet Mary is a lily and Jesus is a lamb. Christians can think with the concept of soul, as in the sacramentalism in which any handicaps on a new born baby are the outward and visible signs of a flawed soul. We have soul-music and soul-food, terms that suggest animating qualities beyond the reach of materialisms, and people who are protecting their souls by not resigning themselves to the reductions of reasonable academic analysis. The immortal soul and the mortal human body are protected differently. From one perspective, tattoos, piercings and some other bodily ornaments like a cross or a “charm” on a necklace are spiritual flesh that protects the soul the way physical flesh protects the skeleton (Claude Levi-Strauss). In contrast, Hardt and Negri interpret tattoos and piercings with reference to the body, not the soul, at least not a soul that is separable from its body. I hear a multitude of people responding to liberals by saying, “I have a soul.” Meanwhile, back at Jacques Lacan, we are composed of specifiable parts, suffering several interior divisions, except and until when responding to a call such as Emmanuel Levinas, Martin Buber, and for that matter, Daniel Libeskind, might hear and communicate to others. I am encouraging you to go back to the relations between the ethical and the political, to say if their mixture curdles, or if it becomes a viable hybrid. How can we can rationally isolate the transcendentals we need, while politely preventing those transcendentals from overlapping the transcendentals they might not overlap, but which effective practices of ruthlessly faith-based ethics and politics forge into an overlap to the point of indistinguishability? I am responding to the gift of your essay and other work (Empire’s New Clothes), asking you to give your attention to methods of thinking as those methods can precede content. Religious fundamentalists constitute thought by using scripture or a written constitution as a product prior to a process. In contrast, self-founding political and ethical constructivists become constituents within processes of thought, risking their trust that any products of their processes will satisfy their self-set standards. Those standards may be shy of becoming answerable to transcendental standards. However, they are already answerable whether they want to be or not. And, giving their responses, liberals, Democrats and even Christian Socialists can tactfully but aggressively render the transcendentals answerable to the immanences. These processes can construct products that might become the retroactive foundation, if they work for the common good. In 2005, a decision by the Supreme Court about education, cities, interstate commerce, sexuality and marriage, not one of which is prescribed for in the American Constitution, renders the Constitution answerable to constructivisms. The reciprocity is that constructivist citizens are blessed with their answerability to the Constitution as a self-constructing process, not as a product of the false illusions of “strict constructionism.” The acts of faith and the contrary acts of constructivist belief can derive from methods of thinking that are opposed, yet could reciprocate. In practice among billions of people, faith and belief are answerable to each other in varying degrees, like religion and political science, or ethics and politics. In actual practice, a constructivist political person is caught between the verticalities and transcendences that overlap the structure of faiths, and the horizontalities and immanences of belief, hence needs to think about methods of thinking with concepts as much as about the content of a political platform. Heidegger describes thinking, as well as truth, as “moving into nearness.” Moving into nearness need not become overlapping, hybridization or meretricious ecumenism. My implication is that the political philosophers like you, whom I am sketching as admirably constructivists, would do well to examine, to explain, and to accept their own transcendentals, not resigning themselves to anti-foundationalism or anti-transcendentalism, but reasonably approaching the truth of their constructivist reality, which, if it includes the work of aesthetic illusion, and even carefully selected transcendentals, thereby opens toward a stronger ontology than is dreamed on in constructivist philosophy. I haven’t solved those problems, or the problem of my sprawling prose, where every attempt to cut the length has made this note longer:


Wow--that is some comment. Thank you. And thanks for reading my other stuff. I won't be able to do justice to your comment here, but I will definitely think about what you've said. I suppose my basic position is that I think that neoliberalism and religious fundamentalism can be compared (overlap--and I love the way you figure your remarks with attention to this notion, I really have to think more about that). And, I think this primarily because neoliberalism is not simply a set of techniques but is also a faith. Likewise, contemporary Christian fundamentalism are more than faith, they are also techniques. Additionally, and less formally, both figure in political discourse today, they are part of political rhetorics and argumentation. Additionally, I don't make such a strong distinction between immanence and transcedence--I like Zizek's way of figuring transcedence as the gap in immanence, the way that the given is never full or complete.

Bill Wilson

"I think that neoliberalism and religious fundamentalism can be compared (overlap--and I love the way you figure your remarks with attention to this notion, I really have to think more about that). And, I think this primarily because neoliberalism is not simply a set of techniques but is also a faith. Likewise, contemporary Christian fundamentalism are more than faith, they are also techniques. Additionally, and less formally, both figure in political discourse today, they are part of political rhetorics and argumentation. Additionally, I don't make such a strong distinction between immanence and transcendence--I like Zizek's way of figuring transcedence as the gap in immanence, the way that the given is never full or complete."

Yes, "transcedence as the gap in immanence, the way that the given is never full or complete," although my emphasis is not transcendence as the gap, but transcendence as used to fill the gaps in the immanences. I see daily how fragments and reflections of transcendence are used to patch the gaps, inconsistencies and discontinuities in immanence. If transcendence is found in the gaps, does that suggest that transcendence made the gaps, or that is has been used to fill them? Note a tv program, " The Medium," wherein inconsistencies and other impasses in this world are fixed by means of passages into another world, "the other side." Experiencing pathlessness in this world, the Medium enters the "other world" which enters her. She brings back patches that both restore the coherence and continuity of the immanences within which we dwell, and "prove" a transcendental plane pragmatically. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt make transcendence collapse by looking historically: "What is revolutionary in this whole series of philosophical developments stretching from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries is that the powers of creation that had previously been consigned exclusively to the heavens are now brought down to earth. This is the discovery of the fullness of the plane of immanence." But every problem with "the fullness of immanence" in such "philosophical developments," occurring down here in the "real" world, has been solved by a patch of transcendental. For liberally enlightened people, that transcendental plane is arranged to face toward the immanence to which it was (is) answerable. But for the religious transcendentalists, any transcendental faces away, toward the abstractions of an ontological Allah, God, the Ground of Being, or any other Absolute. Images and ideas of transcendental power are like the unconscious for Lacan---a source of patches for holes and gaps, and a source of passages through impasses: "God will provide." But such strategies preserve the coherence of the world which sincere faith knows is ultimatly is to be destroyed. That is, faith in a monotheistic God eventually entails an annihilation of this world in behalf of another world. In the meantime, parts of that faith are used to patch holes in the immanences. But in some eternal moment, the absolute transcendental is going to annihilate the patch-work immanences that it has been supporting temporarily. When you write with sweet reasonableness, "neoliberalism is not simply a set of techniques but is also a faith," you do not intend to suggest that a neoliberalist faith annihilates anything. A neo-capitalist "faith," to borrow that word, is not a faith that adjust vision of this world so that it becomes a mere and deceptive appearance that is always yet to be surpassed. Wall Street, WTO and the World Bank do not confirm the truth of a Romantic poet: "Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,/ Stains the white radiance of Eternity/ Til Death tramples it to fragments." If neo-liberal capitalism is a faith, then I need another word, or a few adjectives, to differentiate the nihilistic faith that patches up the world it knows will be annihilated. Again: any technology of faith is used for the value of continuity, as with the continuity of "life" across the discontinuity of death. Historically, a plane of transcendence, whatever its status, has been used as a reservoir of ideas and images that preserve or construct continuity within this world and between the worlds of mundane life and divine life. The temptations of transcendence remain: "Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare." The ideas of the transcendental remain at work in neo-platonic, idealist, transcendental monotheistic religions, but also in Eudlidian mathematical Realism, i.e. Idealism, and in abstract logic that is imposed on physical experience, not derived from experience (therefore Hardt & Negri abjure Aristotelian logic for a "materialist" logic [which I would be happy to explain, because so much depends on their renunciations]. When Thomas Hobbes read Euclid, he converted the idealism into a constructivism; but when Kurt Goedel constructed his theorems that rely on idealist (Realist) mathematics, he provided a stronger model for how to structure thought, where the structure of thought is, yes, foundationless, but if it functions productively, it can rely on the foundation that it is building for itself. Zizek on the use and/or misuse of transcendentals is probably himself useful and right, but on his own terms only. Borrowing a witticism, within the immanences, most transcendentals fill much needed gaps if we are to see the real relations that produce our experiences within our existences. But the liberal side, postmodernist thought, has no grounds from which to argue against some of the transcendentals which are indispensible. And because transcendentals overlap, it has no grounds on which to deny the existence or the functions of other transcendentals. I am not looking at theory alone, but at practice, wherein transcendentals are used and understood by the President of the United States who pronounces "Evil." Bad, wrong and criminal are within the immanences, but Evil is transcendental and beyond civil law. The President authorized torture when he used the phrase "Axis of Evil." I think that the liberal side underestimates the meanings of faith as it is authenticated by violence to the world, and as it slides toward its origins, nihilism. I had a sense throughout the election that fundamentalists could say anything because enlightened liberals could not believe that they were serious about faith. Where Liberals see destructive violent actions, the religious can see an authentication of faith (religious authenticity usually requires violence in its proof, but then so does immanentist). For me, prior to voting in the election, I was being a naively gleeful optimist, while the fundamentalists were blissful about an unscriptural "rapture" they have faith will occur. I had seen the government misunderstand and underestimate faith when it responded to the nihilisms of faith at Waco. The bureaucracy mistook its own mode of beliefs, with evidence, for a faith comparable to the religious faith, and then annihilated the Christian nihilists. Officers of the civil laws did not comprehend the negations and self-negations that qualified David Koresch as a prophet able to mediate between people and God. I want people to believe in faith as sincere belief in transcendental powers, and then to decide how some kind of relativist responds to some kind of absolutist. In the election, a religious side was so far beyond questions of provable beliefs that it occupied an area of faith that liberals could not believe was their real object of faith. Faith in the invisible seems itself to be invisible to secular liberals, few of whom cared about John F. Kennedy's faith, as long as they were comfortable with his beliefs (relations between Ngo Dinh Diem and John F. Kennedy include the overlap of their Catholicisms on a plane above the plane of the technology of politics and of war). For the faithful, illusions of faith are not false illusions, they are as emancipating as the aesthetic illusions of art can be for those of little faith. Look at the people assembled to witness the face of Jesus in a screen-door, or Mary in a pizza. None of those people knows how Jesus and Mary looked, so how can they recognize them in a screen or on a pizza? Well, they can see through the eyes of faith, and are not faulted for it, because their faith is underestimated. Liberals who want constructive open systems that will not close down over them may get a clammy feeling of Sartrean viscosity during a religious ritual. Thus they may not appreciate desire for a faith that closes over a person, yet that seems not to suffocate, but to open the person toward God or Allah as supreme energy. The comedy of Negri and Hardt is that they figure that they can dismantle vertical transcendences into horizontal immanences. Thus they find the lost immanences that historical forces are restoring to people: "Just as in philosophy and science, in politics, too, humanity reappropriated in this early period of modernity what medieval transcendence had taken away from it. In the span of three or four centuries, the process of the refoundation of authority on the basis of a human universal and through the action of a multitude of singularities was accomplished with great force, amid dreadful tragedies and heroic conquests. William of Occam, for example, claimed that the church is the multitude of the faithful---'Ecclesia est multitudo fidelium'." Yes, the Church is the multitude of communicants, but they are gazing upward at a ceiling that seems to open onto infinity and eternity. I write too much, but may pick up at that point someday. So, OK, 2005, What is to be done? What's happening with faith? The woman who acted in many Andy Warhol films, under the name Ultraviolet, has both converted to the Church of the Latterday Saints, and sat in my garden inviting me to go to church with her. Something about me in our scene did not animate her the way that tall young men in blue suits had excited her with the promise that she would never die. When I reminded her that in the 1960s she had told me how dull I am, she said, "But you still are." However boring I am to her now, because I cannot participate in her spirited effervescences, I'm still worth annihilating in an urban garden at nightfall, when blue flowers recede while white flowers glow into the enpurpling dark. Ultraviolet experiences satisfactions when she remembers that she will die, if at all, only to be born again in Eternity. She had visited me to mediate between my immanences (balanced with a few transcendental outriggers), and her objective transcendences, and I had failed her. Well, the people around Andy tended to be religious figures, like Pope Ondine and Viva, and I'd bet that few of them underestimated the relations between their epiphanies and their self-emptyings (their self-annihilations). Even as lapsed Catholics, they could recall the structure of experience in which a negation of self is the condition of insights into otherwise invisible forces that we cannot escape, but must learn to mediate with, and possibly to submit to as an act of faith. How they voted must be left between them and their gods. My closing point is by now familiar: yes, faith has its technologies, but left to itself, faith annihilates our world as a deceptive illusion, technologies and all. --Bill Wilson

Luigi Esposito

It's obvious that there are difference between constitutional religions (which are predicated on abstractions such as divine revelation, divine purpose, etc), and capitalism which (as stated by Bill Wilson) "looks not at a priori purposes, but at purposes that can be served in the construction of a system that builds its constructivist foundation retroactively." Yes, capitalism is a system that is sustained through a constellation of different activities/institutional practices seeking a specific secular objective (e.g. profit). Thus, one might say that capitalism, as a system, is alot more grounded and pragmatic compared to constitutional religion. However, in capitalism, especially the neoliberal variety, all technical/pragmatic objectives are also predicated on a specific worldview that is largely fundamentalist. Thus, for example, the idea of freedom as the freeedom to compete; or the idea that humans are all fundamentally autarkic creatures who, bereft of tyrannical controls, have an essential drive to compete with others in a relentless pursuit for private gain; or the idea that, in a free market system, all individual actions are somehow organized into the common good "spontaneously" (to use Hayek's term) through invisble market dynamics; or the widespread acceptance that the market is an unbiased/apolitical decision maker and people's positions simply reflect their worth and abilities, etc... ALL this presupposes a clear type of fundamentalism. Accepting all these assumptions literally requires a leap of faith. In fact, outside these faith based assumptions, capitalism loses all appeal.

bren serg

It has been associated with an increasing number of deaths in recent years. Most of that increase she added came during the past five to years. Similar increases in mortality have occurred

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