Monday, 10 November 2008

A note on idealism

Three ways of circumscribing idealism:

(1) A symbolic event which happens instead of a material event which it resembles.
(2) A symbolic event which prevents somebody from pursuing her material interests.
(3) A symbolic event which prepares somebody to symbolise her material interests.

I’m not interested in comparing their strengths and weaknesses as definitions. It is obvious from the outset that no stipulation of this kind will do to capture what's meant by idealism. It's just not up for analysis in the analytic style. Idealism is usefully thought of as that which moves flexibly (dialectically, if you prefer) through these three modes.

OK, let me clarify them. (1) is perhaps the most familiar. Speech about “increasing social mobility,” for example, can be understood as a symbolic event which resembles a particular would-be event – abolition of objective class inequalities of production and consumption – and which contributes to the failure of that event to materialise (because it offers an alternative emancipatory narrative). Flip M.E.G.A. e.g.

(2) is the sort of stipulation we’re attracted to when emphasising the connotative dimension of ideology. Ideology partly works by making its creatures fail to notice, conceptualise, think, feel, theorise or express something. Ideology & habitus, ideology as what's natural, etc. In such cases, there may be nothing ideational to compare a potential material event with. No relation of resemblance could therefore be determined.

If conceptual contradictions or aporia are correlated with material ones, then there should be various causal mechanisms by which the resolution of the latter leads to the dissolution of the former. In fact such mechanisms are hugely difficult even to imagine. (3) is the sort of stipulation we may prefer when we're exhausted by trying to imagine such mechanisms. To take the previous example again, you could argue that “speech about “increasing social mobility”” is something that quite easily could accompany the abolition of objective class inequalities. Certainly, any long-term struggle to accomplish this objective would eventually have to conceptualise itself, as well as its various countermovements and its alternatives – its “probematique” – so in a way, such speech should be expected whenever such material events are underway. (3) gives a more rhetorical understanding of idealism. A moment of idealism is a moment at which thought in some “safe” mode, some materially “status quo” reaches – perhaps coincidentally – a configuration from which it can naturally flow into that thought which is a component of praxis, i.e. that ideality which is the organic complement of material events. This use of idealism is the least pejorative of the three.


Kleinsche Fläche said...


1. If the symbolic event happens instead of a material event, how do we know it resembles an otherwise absent event. Must the material event provide an epistemological foundation for the symbolic event? Although, in a sense, the symbolic event (1) provides a semblance of a potential (and only potential) event, whose ideological muster is precisely in its false representation of a future (always the "second coming" in political rhetoric) material event, and based upon an ultimately ignorant desire, having no empirical equipment with which to arm itself against its inevitable contradictions. Also, the word symbol suggests the mimetic correspondence of reality and representation, a primitive, deep semiology, but do you think idealism is able to sustain its autonomy, fulfilling the need of universal consciousness, without the real referent? Perhaps, it depends on whether we see idealism as the event of the idea, from inception to transmission toward contradiction as a framework of knowledge or idealism as the event of the idea, as it sustains a metaphysical framework of Platonic forms or of the suprasensuous in general. We might also understand that the resembling material event is itself a symbolic event of the idea which replaces it. The actual material event derives logically from the symbolic event ousting the resembling material event.
2. The creature who "fails" to notice only fails in an objective thought apparatus (such as our target, idealism) according to which Knowledge is not an effect or result of biopolitical history, but underpins it. Thus, prevention still posits a normative criteria for establishing that creature's personhood within an objective, timeless framework, sure of its Fate. Can contradictions (or aporias) be anything but conceptual? If material, then must we assume a kind of Scholastic realism in order to give them weight? And when we experience the difficulty of imagining the "causal mechanisms" that resolve the material contradictions/aporias and dissolve the conceptual ones, is not that imagining attempting to position an idealism over a materialism? Or maybe that's what (3) offers?
3. See 1. & 2.
4. See 3.

plaidcasnewydd said...

If ideology is functioning correctly then surely the symbolic event forms the epistemological foundation of the material event.

Is it not erroneous to talk of symbolic events happening 'instead' of material events? Rather that an event had a material outcome that was at odds with its supposed idealism.

Idealism does not essentially lack referents, only the presence of referents.

That which can be weighed empirically should not necessarily be assigned a higher truth value than that which cannot.

Contradictions cannot be anything but conceptual but as conceptions they never-the-less have resonance in the material. Just because something doesn't exist does not mean it ceases to be there.

I don't really see dialectical opposition between symbolism and materialism. There is certainly a tension there, but this as a result of praxis more than unavoidable binary slippage.


Jow Lindsay said...

<< Although, in a sense, the symbolic event (1) provides a semblance of a
potential (and only potential) event, whose ideological muster is
precisely in its false representation of a future (always the "second coming" in political rhetoric) material event, and based upon an ultimately ignorant desire, having no empirical equipment with which to arm itself against its inevitable contradictions. >>

So in this version, a "symbolic event" is one of idealism's moments if it resembles – not those events which it displaces, but – a future
state of affairs which is a possible outcome of the events which it displaces?

(Scare quotes now, because symbolic event" or "ideational fuss" or whatever is that which can be a bearer of idealism or not, of course is a placeholder, whose substantive implications variously begs the question, and at least in the way you point out w/ "primitive, deep
semiology" etc.)

(More later prob.)

Kleinsche Fläche said...

1. If ideology isn't working, then are we spontaneous beasts who just act (material event) without thinking (symbolic event)? It seems that for ideology to function correctly, it indeed requires no such symbolic event to 'happen' before the material event.
2. Symbolic events can 'happen' as much as things that don't exist don't "cease to be there".
3. Idealism lacks reference-structures because it sees truth as distinguished from material circumstance. This binary of essence/presence: So it has the referents, or contains them but their presence is effaced? So it has the essence of the referents but not their presencing? Can it have the essence of their presence?
4. In the scheme of "higher truth values" how could we assign extra weight to empirical data, as long as we understand truth in this tendentiously abstract form, devoid of subject and object, like a flaming chunk of ancient Seraphim porn. Truth in things or ideas? Tidy maxim.
5. The moment of contradiction between two conceptions has nothing to do with material resonance. Contradiction is a strictly rhetoric function, the Ciceronian 'speak against', the instrument of logic that cannot then reach down to the material and expect it to turn inside out.
6. Symbolism vs. Materialism: this could be an example of opposition though it does not have to be of a dialectical stripe of course, that's up to us or Truth as §4 might have said. Crudely, a symbol purports to represent something; a material is that something. Materialism seeks to undermine idealism, strictly speaking, by appropriating the idea of consciousness and putting it along with existence in a frequency of phenomena which are felt as indicators of a given historical and economic circumstance. Obviously, the problem is the medium of knowledge through which materialism seeks to take action, which is exposing certain contradictions inherent in complex social structures that are constantly interweaving, undermining, overriding, etc. each other. However, if it always must use language or a conceptual framework to even communicate the material situations by ideas, then it is also a kind of symbolism, in the sense of its wish to represent actual circumstances. The gap of the referent is the issue of ideology. Its quality of distortion is not an alien quality, but is evocative of its inevitable character--only failure if belief. The question of cognitive linguistics and also those who no longer want to play around with poststructuralism is describing the complex relation of language to reality. The distortion between them is the scene of this drama.

plaidcasnewydd said...

Does light in a box have mass?

LadiesAlone said...

How can we talk of the inconsistency of time re: subjective time (railway time etc) when science shows us that the speed of light is always a constant?
And what does this mean for feminism?

plaidcasnewydd said...

Appropos relativity and feminism

Her chicanery shimmied, in and out of streetlamps, as he always looked at her so. Time, he figured, was a whore. Language limber shadows.

Ripping out of the abortive crisis there was nothing left to add, no Body Of Evidence, just a tissue of lies. A cuckold membrane of the everyday.

He assimulated objects, and assigned their relevance, not on the basis of their size, or other physical properties, but on the basis of their proximity.

Talk dulled the arraignment, and he was unable to mediate further in this transact.

The entire means of seeing, it seemed, was flawed.

So as the representative subproblem indicate right to an epistemological vex reverse and on your left you will see, fleetingly (quint), a crowd in some phenomenological difficulty.

The media of empirical judgment he leveled was shanty. the alternative was none, but to put faith in the traces of the fairytale diaspora that shorted across synapse.

Already had, but there was no grounding. All lights of the fair and carnival laughter were just as memory. A tuppenny turned trick. Toying her between his fingers, all his memories were concealing ones.

But what did this mean for zeitgest?
When would truth return to Wales? As if it ever had been.

Will anyone ever see me, he wondered.

Posie Rider said...

Fighting science with poetry, eh? A typical patriachal jest! But women will no longer be tricked with shimmering light effects, quiverings of the heart and the bastard sympathy. We HAVE had an Enlightenment, you know!

Still, very nice poesy! And thank you for your interest. I refer you to my stand-alone piece, 'Gulf Scream', part of a series entitled 'Labial Elegiacs'!


the neglected education of my difference between man
flowers that are are only anxious to inspire this subject soil, and when they ought to cherish a nobler strength, leaves.
sorrowful indignation has depressed my spirits,

barren books by men written on the subject of love, women,
the civilized grand source of the misery of woman
bloodsoaked tampon did hitherto take place in the stalk,
long before the season

"do you trust me?"

to worry about minds that are not in a healthy state;
about my thighs; about dawn’s rising. leaves.
you want to work
blooming I am obliged to confess that nature (considering the historic page)
has been so bubbled by