Massumi, Brian. “Such As It Is: A Short Essay in Extreme Realism” Body & Society. Volume: 22 issue: 1, page(s): 115-127. 12 November 2015.
Massumi talks about lectures Peirce gave at Harvard in 1903 at the invitation of William James, the philosopher/psychologist. “Peirce would include in his second Harvard lecture a stern admonition. Pragmatism must not ground itself in any doctrine of being” (115). Apparently Peirce’s notion of pragmatism was a bit radical. Interesting that the way Massumi characterizes Peirce, well, he seems in good company with Berthoff and Blackmer at any rate, Richards.
“The idealist alternative, then the neo-Hegelian rage, was worse. Its exalted notion of the absolute, Pure Being as abstract totality, which James would tirelessly and lengthily battle in his philosophical writ- ings of the next ten years (James, 1996a, James, 1996b), is here summarily dismissed by Peirce as a patent ‘falsity’ (Peirce, 1997: 139)” (115). **And here…. the fight against positivism.
“It is not that Peirce objects to ideas like ‘immediate consciousness’ or absolute ‘presentness’. These he embraces. It is just that, for a pragmatic philosophy, the starting point must not be Being but Feel- ing. Pure feeling. Pragmatism will be an ‘an extreme realism’ (Peirce, 1998: xx) whose first category will be a pure presentness elemental to all feeling” (115). ***I am sensing Swedenborg :)… I wonder if this notion of firstness has anything to do with Carolyn’s claim that Swedenborg was not a mystic.
“It would qualify as a form of empiricism, since it would accept the principle that felt experience is the only source of knowledge (Peirce, 1997: 144)” (1156. ***The All In Each!!!
“As James would later say, its starting point would be all ‘how’ and no ‘what’. It would be about ‘constitution of the fact as given’ (James, 1996a: 121), with the proviso that this is the sort of constitution ‘behind which there is nothing’ (James, 1996a: 118n)” *** FORM… “constitution” here = “composition”!
“Pure feeling, pure how . . . pure process” (116). **Now that’s a process theory!
“A felt givenness of elemental presentness. This, as will become quickly apparent, is a most slippery processual thing. It is about quality first, as elemental to the consti- tution of whatful being; the being of a what: determinate being. It’s not just that there is such a processual thing as pure feeling that stands to be pragmatically grappled with” (117). ***Is “felt” here “perceived”?
“Pure experience is worlding. It is the constitutive process of the world’s emergence” (117). **Extend this to the universe and we have… Swedenborg? Ta da!
“The only being there is, is this becoming” **Oh my goodness… Here is Swedenborg exactly!
“That’s the rub. Pragmatism, as a radical empiricism, will have to generate its world from a coming-to- be behind which there is nothing determinate – but emphatically not nothing. Rather: an ‘immediate consciousness’ of pure ‘presentness’” (117). ***ambiguity not indetermination… How does Massumi understand postmodern theories of being opposed to Peirce’s triadicity?
“The point is that if there is nothing ‘behind’, no being, no what, no a priori, then the presentness of immediate consciousness is not in the mind any more than it is in the classically empirical world of already-given material substance” (117). ***I can see how this would be utterly misconstrued for the rest of time. But I can see, too, how it might propel philosophical investigation into OOO and affect.
“It is not ‘in’ anything. It is outside. Outside, coming in” (117). **Huh? Why outside? Why not through? Encompassing Mind and all else. Brother, why this old box?
“Suddenly, and in the event, unrecognizably. Not I – my strange intruder. Any notion of being that survives the intrusion will have to constitutively link its presentness to the abrupt appearance of a not-I. What is fundamentally ‘given’ to pragmatism, insofar as it is a radical empiricism, is an irruption of strangeness that cannot be in the first-person” (117). Yeah, I can see why Peirce would regret this. But I also see how it captures the ‘field of experience’ in all of its dynamism, the Massumian other-perception. And now we’re making use of dialogue; people/minds becoming resources for tapping material for thinking with.
“So much for psychology. And so much for phenomenology as we later came to know it, as revolving around the refound familiarity of the pre-reflective first-person experience. The true phenomenon, by this account, is an authentic return to the truth of being’s pre-reflection. Being is its own phenomenal home-coming. For Peirce, it is more like a home invasion” (117). **hmmm… both psychology and phenomenology as lines of inquiry require on the positivist notion of self/not-self distinction?
“Peirce’s confession of despair comes in a summary restatement of his theory of signs. The semiotic process pivots on the action of the sign as the ‘determination of an effect’. In his stock definition of the sign, as a matter of course he adds to the ‘determination of an effect’ the words ‘upon a person’. He is acutely aware that saying that the taking effect of semiosis is ‘upon a person’ falsifies his entire philo- sophy” (117). **How does ‘upon a person’ falsify his philosophy? need to understand this more fully
“The idea that semiotic process assumes a substantive first-person feeler of an effect is pragmatism’s ferry ticket to metaphysical hell” (117-118). ***hilarious. It’s the ‘first-person’-ness that’s the problem? And boy does that play out in spades in the field of Comp/Rhet… the hell part.
“The feeling of the sign’s effect is pivotal to a semiotic process” (118). ***I wonder to what extent ‘feeling’ is ‘perception’ here (or is it ’emotion’… or both) (or neither).
“Since semiosis is the process of the emergence of meaning, a definition of the sign is a take on the genesis of thought” (118). ***How does thought emerge? ‘through’ signs? not “from” them? Is this what is meant by ‘outside’?
“Peirce’s definition telescopes the genesis of thought into feeling [okay… how is that?]. Pure feeling, by all intrusive appearances. That the genesis of thought is flush with pure feeling is a truly radical proposition” (118). **YES!!
“It entails that there is also such a processually slippery thing as pure thought, and that it comes with the same strange immediacy as phenomenal presentness” (118). **Hmmm.. is ‘pure thought’ different from ‘pure feeling’? What would be the difference?
Holy smokes: “The world’s phenomenal constitution must be understood as the infractive appearance of a pure thinking-feeling behind which there is neither substance nor subject” (118). ***Mind is action? (Mind is thinking-feeling…) That action is perception? Thinking-feeling is perception? It (self-ness) is pure action? Choosing. Do we need a body for that?
“Peirce integrates into his logic the project of articulating this as a mode of reasoning. To the traditional categories of induction and deduction he adds an aboriginal third” (118). **THIRDNESS *** “Abduction is the mode of thought from which the other two emerge” (118). ***Induction (induces, brings about), Deduction (subtracts via generalization), Abduction (a kidnapping, away from self).
“It strikes with the strange immediacy and presentness of pure feeling. It is actually First, not Third. It comes felt-first as a ‘perceptual judgment’ as elemental to feeling as feeling is, for a radical empiricism, to the constitution of the world” (118). **Ah here it is! felt = perceptual judgment… “constitution” being verb? or noun? or both? allatonce.
“When Peirce soppily throws feeling to the hydra-headed firstperson, thought gets swallowed along with it. It is no longer a constitutive element for an ‘extreme realism’ of the outside of the event. It’s in the maw. It makes a monstrous home-coming to interiority. In one toss Peirce damns his metaphysics and his logic with his semiotics” (118). ***Ah, so “first person”-ness is the problem. Because “feeling” gets “person-al-ized” in conversations and then the notion of Being beyond person becomes… mystical? [Swedenborg?]
huh… there is a fine line between this thinking (affect) and mysticism? the mysticism of Swedenborg?
“When Peirce soppily throws feeling to the hydra-headed firstperson, thought gets swallowed along with it. It is no longer a constitutive element for an ‘extreme realism’ of the outside of the event. It’s in the maw. It makes a monstrous home-coming to interiority. In one toss Peirce damns his metaphysics and his logic with his semiotics” (119). YES AND WE GET THIS PERNICIOUS EXPRESSIVE/COGNITIVE SPLIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Peirce’s despair was well warranted. Few and far between are uses of his work which resist the sop. The soppiness is especially dominant in uses of his concepts which privilege its semiotic aspect at the expense of the metaphysics and the logic. Late 20th-century semiotics was very often soaked in it. Approaches developing out of the semiotic turn of the 1960s and 1970s, such as cultural studies and social constructivism, were also wont to feed at the trough” (119). ***That’s an interesting trio. Massumi focuses on metaphysics? Does that correlate with “firstness”? In terms of focus… Semiotics can’t abide by thirdness? Where does logic come in? It’s easy to assign it to the dyad, secondness. But the three entail each other, always.
“The concepts he [William James] develops are clearly marked by Peirce’s Harvard lectures. Peirce’s extreme realism becomes James’s radical empiricism. Peirce’s First. category of immediate consciousness and presentness becomes James’s pure experience. Correlates to Peirce’s Second and Third categories are also not difficult to identify. To James’s credit, he fights valiantly against the sop of the first-person” (117-118). *** This section of James’ work employs the language of “The Autonomy of Affect” : “feeling,” “virtual,” “actual,” “field”… So I still do not fully comprehend this ‘first-person’ as bad-guy. As a concept it is useful in some situations. I guess Massumi’s point (not only his) is that the concept of first person tends to dull us to the rest of us?
“Peirce’s is not the only systematic philosophy constructed in this problematic field. When Whitehead characterizes his philosophy as ‘a critique of pure feeling’ he is there (Whitehead, 1978: 113), his ingressive ‘eternal object’ carrying into his system the infractive strangeness of the bursting upon the scene of Peirce’s Firstness of pure presentness as immediate subjectless consciousness” (119). **The dissolution of ‘self’? No, not really. The dissolution of “pure” self… Ah and there’s the paradox: the impurity of “pure presentness.” It’s the “purity” that all of this challenges. Pure feeling. Pure thought. Pure self. Pure social. Pure cultural. Susan Leigh Star. Queering. Smudging. The ultimate “putting in context”. This dissolution of self, however, is not the same as nihilism. (Although misunderstanding it might feel Neitzschean. It is a “de-composed” self, but only by degree, and only on a level. There is a self, an actualization, being as moment in time/place.
“James remarks that ‘only new-born babes, or men in semi-coma from sleep, drugs, illnesses, or blows, may be assumed to have an experience pure’ to the highest degree (James, 1996a, 93). Peirce is not big on drugs or illness, but he often comes to sleep and blows” (120).***No access to the semiotic, to reflexive mind, to language. (What is ecstasy?)
“Pure and simple feeling is a quality of experience ‘present without compulsion and without a reason’ [But not without influence] (Peirce, 1998: 4). ‘Imagine a person in a dreamy state . . . thinking of nothing but a red color’ (Peirce, 1998: 4). Since he is thinking about it dreamily, he is also ‘not thinking about it, either, that is, not asking or answering any questions about it, not even saying to himself that it pleases him, just contemplating’ (Peirce, 1998: 4)” (120). ***Wha??? How can we “contemplate” without “thinking about”? So this is a “state of mind” (“dreamily”) AND simultaneously a “state of being”? Is what’s being described here saying something about “meaningfulness”? “dreamily” means absence of meaningfulness? And what about “compulsion”? And “pleasing”?
“Saying that this contemplation ‘is a slumbering feeling’, however, ‘does not make it less intense, perhaps the reverse’ (Peirce, 1992: 259). Could anything be more intense than the presence of a quality ‘just as it is, regardless of past and future, utterly ignoring anything else’, in absolute immediacy: ‘just positive character’. No multiplicity, no change, no comparison, no reflection: ‘absence of all relation’. Pure ‘such as it is positively all of itself’. Being all of itself, such ‘as it is, it is its own universe. There is nothing else’ (1997:140–1). Not even parts composing its unity. It is absolutely, immediately simple” (120-121). ***Well, yeah, but… This is a slice of time, a fictional Present. If it’s a fiction, then why is it useful to imagine?
“This, Peirce says, is the first element. Firstness. Its name is Quality, with a capital Q (Peirce, 1997: 140–1)” (121). **Okay, I have a concept of quality to begin with. How does it square with this notion of “quality”? Peirce names a CAPACITY here? Depending on the situation at any given moment? The situation is not infinite? It’s defined by all presences in any given moment and their relations? And doesn’t this include memes? words? images? signs? Is meaning treated as something separate here?
“For in order to make the full measure of a Quality absolutely, immediately, simply present, you must ‘now imagine that the rest of your consciousness, memory, thought, everything except this feeling . . . is utterly wiped out’ (Peirce, 1992: 259)” (122). **A KOAN. Transcendental meditation is the practice of this imagination, yes? And by degree simply paying attention. A certain quality of reflection all the way down to zero (theoretically)?
“You’re not even there. Quality is, of itself, such as it is, and all and only as it is, its own universe, regardless. To call its being without your soppy first-person testimony merely ‘abstract’ would be to mis- take it. Slippery as it is, this is not an abstraction in any ordinary sense. It is qualitative immediacy at its intensest: ‘just positive character’ (Peirce, 1997: 140). Not in the mind. Self-contemplating. Thinking-feeling such as it is all of itself” (121). ***Okay. Sure. One one level there is no self, there is only resource. I can buy that. Now, then, what is the self? Time? And what of the relativity of time?
“‘What originally made such a quality of feeling possible? Evi- dently, nothing but itself. It is’, after all, ‘a First’ (Peirce, 1992: 259). Its self-immediacy is aboriginal” (121). ***GOD? God is Firstness? Geist? Geist is firstness?
“The fact that Peirce uses color, sound and pain as examples of Qual- ity’s aboriginality should not be taken to mean that the ‘simplicity’ at issue has to do with basic building blocks, as in the classical empirical notion of sense-data” (121). Okay, but “firstness” as a term is problematic then, right? I mean who the hell isn’t going to conclude that firstness “comes first”? Instead of more like the Earth’s core? The galaxy’s sun? The moon’s Earth? Dimension…?
“This is the idea [classical empiracist] that experience builds up from a diversity of punctual sense-impressions materially occasioned by other bodies impinging in a congeries upon our body” (121). **An ontological “chaos”… epistemontological?
“The impressions are then composited. They are bound to one another into a minimum lump of registered experience. Which lumps in turn composite, until higher-order cognitive functions rise up from the material ground like a monumental edifice to experience, laid brick by impressive brick. From the observation deck atop the monument, a first-person subject of the experience keeps watch” (122). THIS IS POSITIVISTIC? LEADS TO PERNICIOUS HIERARCHIES?**How is consciousness inevitable? The resulting effect of a particular, repeated composite of impressions on a body/structure? “edifice” is a structural term? Meaning?
“I recognize arriving lumps pressing for ascent. My recognition adds them to the building register, authorizing them to rise to their appropriate level where they will gainfully contribute to the ongoing construction” (122). **And suddenly there’s a ‘self’… Self is the re-cognition, reflection into consciousness. Note the suggestion of competition here and traces of a Darwinian evolution of “ideas.” I wonder if this is the “re-cognition/reflection” that gets promoted often as “meta-cognition” or the seed of it?
“The bit-by-bit constructionist model implicitly assumes everything it is ostensibly designed to explain [circular fallacy]. The lofty I atop is surreptitiously assumed in advance, below the ground level at which the account begins [This is true.]. It pre-figures as a receiver of impressions and lumper-together of construction material. In addition to this underground subject, there is an implicit assumption of a pre-given material world, prior to and physically outside of experience” (122). **Huh? sheesh. interiority/exteriority is an implicit framework?
“The complication is that none of these concepts work without a concept of the virtual (Peirce, James, Deleuze, Guattari) or pure potentiality (Whitehead): ‘respects which don’t appear’” (123). ***And that’s what the ‘radical empiricists’ do differently?
“Firstness first. The relation of part to whole must be entirely rethought. This requires a rethinking of the relation of oneness and manyness. Nothing determinate may be pre-assumed. Cause, space, and time-order must all be derived, factoring in an aboriginal Quality that is neither predicated by an assumed subject, nor the property of a pre-given objective world, and carries no a priori structure” (123). *Brain. Hurts. So quality is pure form? No human needed. No mind needed. It is a potential, everpresent, formulae? particular relationality?
“The rethinking of oneness with manyness called for by James implies a need to reassess the continuist implications of his own ‘stream of consciousness’. Paradoxically, in the event of a quality of experience’s appearing, the oneness of the absolute presentness of immediate consciousness cannot demarcate itself from manyness” (123). **So… oneness/manyness of moments, oneness/manyness of “bodies”?
“James’s word for the paradoxical coming-together of unity and diversity is the ‘conflux’ of pure experience (James, 1996a: 120). Whitehead frequently used the word ‘fusion’ for it, although without highlighting it as a term (Whitehead, 1967: 181–3, 186, 1985: 37–8). Deleuze and Guattari also had a rallying cry: ‘PLURALISM = MONISM’ [All GOD/No GOD] (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 20). One-All (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 20, 340–1). [ALL In EACH] To Whitehead’s fusion corresponds in Deleuze’s early work ‘passive synthesis’ (Deleuze, 1994: ch. 2), returning later in the work with Guattari as the ‘block of becoming’ which appears as a ‘block of sensation’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 232–309; Deleuze and Guattari, 1994: 163–99). Peirce, for his part, suggests the shadowy concept of ‘umbral union’ (from the Latin for shade; Peirce, 1997: 125). The complication is that none of these con- cepts work without a concept of the virtual (Peirce, James, Deleuze, Guattari) or pure potentiality (Whitehead): ‘respects which don’t appear’” (123).
“Quality is the immediate presence to each other of every part you might conceivably parse out of their having come together. Quality is in the event of that coming-together already having made itself felt, unparsed. The already-First of pure experience, equals reflection always disappointed. The quality, such as it is of itself, gives analysis the slip. It cannot be the object of analysis for the simple reason that it is not an object. It’s a Quality. This is in no way to say that analysis is irrelevant to it, or it to analysis. Again, it wouldn’t even occur to you to reflect and analyze had the Quality not appeared. It is in pure experience that the conditions for reflection first appear. The Firstness of Quality is an overture to reflection. It is a lure for reflection. Far from being irrelevant to analysis, its allure is analysis’s impetus” (124). ***Montessori here. By focusing on environment, Montessori tends to “conditions” that might affect quality? Can quality be effected? There is a sense of learning here. How to describe it?
“Deleuze and Guattari have a formula that expresses the link between non-numerical suchness and the divisions of analysis” (125). ***Quality is an intensity. No parts. The wholness of relationality. No “thing” to be manipulated or controlled? Can be influenced? “divisions of analysis”… This is the area of consciousness, mind, signification, episteme, writing, teaching, berthoff. But teaching and learning are not ineinandersein, I think, from this view.
“How else to name this charged conceptual coming-together of the diverse, but a Quality of thinking? It is not reflection exactly, and doesn’t proceed by analysis. It is a thinking-feeling. More an intuition [A sense]. A conceptually rigorous intuition. Conceptually rigorous intuition is the return of Firstness in thought, in virtue of thought’s own once and future diversity. This return of Firstness in virtue of the diversity of thought is one with an obligation of thought to return to Firstness, however disappointingly slippery it may continue to be” **Berthoff’s dialectic honors this.
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