museum of thought collective

Karl F Tullah, Friedrich Faust, Kurt César, Nadim Bakhshov

Menu Close

Daydreaming & Sleepwalking

I sat with Freddy and Ali late last night. We found ourselves discussing climate protests, the breakdown of democratic practices through the corrupting power of wealth and finance and, inevitably, the ordinary and everyday increase of mental health issues.

“Honestly,” said Freddy,” I just don’t get it. As a planetary species are we that stupid that we sever the source of our own life, pollute our oceans, poison our air supply, overheat the atmosphere and think nothing of it? Or do we know what we are doing and are trying to stop freaking out?”

“Feels like, ” commented Karl,” we’re sleepwalking off a cliff. Something is desperately going wrong. Our politics seems to be stuck in a loop of problems it creates. It seems lost and empty. Our education system has no inspiration. And, all the while I feel like the human species is lost in fantasies and daydreams.”

“Ironic”, I added,” Most people I know don’t even sleep well.”

truth & meaning

Jacques I know I don’t often join in. I prefer to keep a critical distance to the work you all do but I thought I would say something. Today Peter Lato and I were discussing a number of things – mainly funding and the future of the Collective – but we then fell into a discussion of this ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ culture being promoted by mainstream politicians and we both realized we need to discuss these things.

Peter Well, I brought these two pictures along for us to discuss. It seems that truth is not a simple thing – but if we lose it and relativize everything or reject it as a fascist construct or do any number of stupid maneuvers then we will poison the lifestream.

Jacques That’s a bit dramatic Peter, but I’m with you over this question of truth and meaning – so how do we recover this relationship? That was your question, I believe. Here’s my answer. Truth has two parts: it is an emergent-relation and it is an exchange-relation.

Peter Emergent-relation? I think I understand what you might mean in the following way. We speak, we act, we manifest in the world. right? This speaking, acting and so on emerges out of conditions. That does not make the truths we utter relative – but contexts are critical here. The sense of what we utter, do and so on require a relation to the conditions out of which they emerge.

Jacques Yes, so these utterances, actions are wired to the contexts out of which they emerge. We have a second relation: the exchange-relation. An utterance is in an exchange relation to the very context out of which it emerged. The exchange relation means that its truth or meaning is simply not given once you decode its contexts – or conditions out of which it emerged. The reason for this is that it is in a dynamic relation with those conditions.

Peter That’s a good start, but we need to spell this out even further. A lie, for example, has two aspects – either or both of these are in operation. Firstly a lie simply severs the utterance or act from the conditions out of which it emerged. Secondly, the utterance or act blocks its exchange-relation to its conditions. It then free-floats. Language is fractured and a lie can be uttered with the deception that it is interchangeable with the truth. How does that sound?

incipit novum

Karl What is a thought? What is thinking? Imagine we have been wrong about something so intimately close to us for such a long time. Imagine that thought, the image, the snippet of conversation, the feeling of anxiety that bubbles up – imagine all of it is a signifier. What does it signify? We interpret our own feelings largely by misrecognizing what this signifier is pointing to. It is so easy to simply think the signified object, event or situation is in time. but what if it is not? What if only some of what pours into our bodies point to situations, events, appearances, interactions, etc in time? What if we completely miss the root and object of much of our feeling?

Friedrich So you are saying this thought-art, this language of thought we have developed, captures both the complexity and beauty of the way our thinking is part of the natural order without sacrificing yourself to simple models of materialism or determinism or crude causality?

Karl I am. I think we both agree that human nature is a growth out of nature itself.

Friedrich A critical part of this is the idea of responsibility, both ethical and ontological responsibility. How we should act and what the nature of the universe is. But not only the universe. Our social formations are not pre-determined by some substratum in the material world – neither biological discourse or any natural scientific discourse properly articulate the relationship of our social formations to the whole natural order.

Karl You have said, in previous conversations, that collectively, we also form a subject. Are you saying this collective subject, the so-called ‘we’, encoded in our social practices, has its own ethical responsibilities? That politics is the frame within which our collective subjectivity acts in the world?

Friedrich Yes, partly. But also our ontologies fall into two broad categories: those that repress the connectedness of all things and those that form creative images of the connectedness of all things. And, ontologies fall into two further broad shapes – We either hold fast to the world made of some stuff or we let go and experience the world as a movement. If the world is built out of indifferent stuff then it arises without meaning, is empty and this thought-art, this metaphysical art is a waste of time. However, if the world is built out of a formless movement and this movement is essentially a movement of context-responses then…the whole fabric of the universe is shot through with meaning and significance. There is no inert inorganic world out of which – by some miracle of complexity – the organic world arises and then out of a further miracle a mind arises.

towards a new way of imagining philosophy

the separation of politics and ethics

Karl I went for a walk this morning with the dog and found myself thinking about the sketch you made last night.

Ali I was tired and not sure if the others would agree with this picture – whether it breaks the basic grammar of this new thought-art.

Karl You seem to be saying that, the basic condition of our daily interactions are social, economic and political institutions. I get that. But interaction itself is always a potential act from within – like a plant growing in the cracks of concrete paving – and has the potential not just to subvert the institutions but also to move them in different ways –

Ali There is no inevitability of the way we move through working life. Yes, but I was also thinking about the way meaning, the field that in-forms the world, itself is a complex movement of formations that appear and dissolve, so what actually emerges grows out of complex dynamic conditions.

Karl Yes, I get that too. Don’t you mean that we are situated and emerge out of possibility, not necessity.

Ali Yes, I do. Nature does not emerge out of some pre-ordained plan, but grows and learns and changes. Just like our human forms of life. There is no inevitability about any of them.

Karl So capitalism is not inevitable?

Ali No, it is not. And if it is not then we have to look at the internal dynamics of our current modes of life that maintain rather than transform or change? Why are we voting for those who perpetuate the corruption and greed of capitalism, rather than a civic ethic which recognizes the community as a basic living condition for any human being?

Karl You’re criticising individualism again? So, what do you offer?

Ali Integrity. As a personal and institutional virtue. How much of what we have stays where it is because of the lies we tell ourselves and each other?

the deep flaw that is individualism

Nadim I have become deeply aware that the notion of an intelligible individualism, in which, I think of myself as separate from nature, society, and others, is deeply and profoundly flawed. The consequences are so deeply anti-ecological and destructive of the environment and our social fabric. I am wired into my contexts and my contexts include others, society, and the Earth.

Kurt But there are so many out there who hang on to the claim that it is perfectly intelligible. I can think of myself of a self-contexting individual. I do not need anyone else or anything else.

Nadim I agree. And there are some very prominent people who promote this agenda.

Kurt I think I would say it’s not just that I am wired to my contexts – take ‘breathing’, for example – my internal desire, my drives, and my emotional life are deeply wired into my relation to my context. If I sever my connection to the world I enter a state of profound bad faith –

corruption, #4

FROM PHILOSOPHICAL SKETCHBOOK, 2019

the double relation

Kurt I see that I am constantly emerging from my conditions, the flow of life, and yet I am wired to that context – the natural order.

Ibn Aflatun You mean ‘breathing’?

Kurt Yes. All bodily processes wire me into the fabric of the natural order and the Earth. I exist in a double-relation: both constantly emerging from the living context but also interacting with it.

Ibn Alfatun I think I know why this is important: too many people assume that the idea of an individual, the abstracted being, the ‘me’, makes sense as some kind of self-enclosed sac of activity, as an isolated meaning-generating monad.

Kurt It doesn’t.

Ibn Aflatun How can it? It’s a residue of older errors in our history of human experience and thought. Tradition is important, but to treat our traditions with uncritical reverence, is a mistake.

untitled #3

FROM PHILOSOPHICAL SKETCHBOOK, 2019

untitled #2

FROM PHILOSOPHICAL SKETCHBOOK, 2019