The Cave Of False Consciousness IV of IX

Posted by on April 13th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

. . . One should ask oneself carefully:  “Why don’t you want to deceive?”
especially if it should appear—and it certainly does appear—that life
depends on appearance; I mean, on error, simulation, deception,
self-deception; and when life has, as a matter of fact, always shown
itself to be on the side of the most unscrupulous polytropoi
[the shiftiest, most versatile].

—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, V: 344

It is of course circular reasoning to say that it appears that life is founded upon appearance.  It may even “seem” that “seeming” is essential to all our worldly involvements and transactions, but that does not argue that seeming is in an absolute or unqualified sense “the essence” or firmament or authoritative principle of utterly everything in life or the world.  Neither the world nor human existence operate for the sake of entertaining our shallow self-diversionary egos.  Seeming obviously facilitates a great deal that it never primordially made possible in the first place; it has a potent subsidiary role to play in everything human and social and historical, and must have some “evolutionary” or “survival” value to judge by the ungodly prevalence of depthless, breadthless pinheads.  But taken “absolutely” or in abstracto, the compulsion to take things “at face value” is predictably just an invitation to rampant delusionality.

—Is there or isn’t there authority or validity to what Nietzsche posits as a thesis?  Precisely the most superficial and the most manipulative personalities, the least grounded and least scrupulous, naturally (i.e. out of the stupor or intoxication of self) rejoice in Nietzsche’s claim:  he is (seems to be) revealing what all such “unbelievers” fundamentally “believe,” mirroring their own vital but unspeakable imbecilities back to them.  He is puckishly implying (and thereby circuitously belying) that what he himself charges is indeed true, and has behind it more than just the prima facie, mercurial flux of “what seems” or “what appeals to” our subrational and critically uncontrolled, our most viscous and self-incestuous immediacy.  Humans at large are credulous members of a mimetic species, desperately needing and wanting to “believe,” to be confirmed in their psychic necessitude.

Nietzsche dived into the cesspool, he inhaled deep of the opium den of modern nihilism, in order after decades to emerge somewhere beyond its mind-dissolving horizons.  Just as he took the “death of God” far more seriously and profoundly than any Christian, so too with nihilism generally:  like Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Kafka, he is one of the existential reclamation-crew trying to salvage the very idea of foundations (generally of some modernly inconceivable kind) from the collision of the Titanic of antifoundationalist modernity with its own self.  In what he so “existentially” or contra-Kantianly and contra-Platonically claims here, there is a horrific truth to which the past couple of centuries of “modernization” have lent more and more objective validation:  if the mythology of Hindu faith surmised a (Westernly i.e. literalistically absurd) hierarchy that made the whole cosmos rest ultimately on the back of a humble turtle, the mythology of modern scientific and capitalist “rationalism” in the West had even more inanely elaborated systems of stringent “objectivity,” technical and institutional “logics,” all erected on the back of a mucoid slime of subjectivism, i.e. the “demands” and “wants” and “purposes” and “needs” and fluent “feelings”—the self-evasive “ego”—of a newly evolved species of personality, liberated by the democratist “ethos” from all felt obligations to transcend its own infantilist or idiotist feeling-life.  “Do as thou wilt,” “believe as you like” (or as Kierkegaard’s esthetic personality expressed it, “Respect nothing,” nil admirari):  and thus mass-multitudes of moderns, even those who imagine themselves to be traditionalists and true-believers, have submerged all the relics of former belief-systems in their narcotic bath of self-indulgency, supposing that every “divine Being of your own preference” is truly still worthy or qualified to function as a God and not just an idol set up to placate human-all-too-human libidinal and ego-drives.

Both en masse and in its expert-enclaves, this mass-generated type of licentious or “arbitrarialist” human actually had no longer any sort of clue what was fundamentally good, right, sane, just, healthy, or rational for him:  a valueless, amoral, impious, self-intoxicated agnostic in all matters of value; an aggressively and proudly, arrogantly, incorrigibly unwise creature; a myopic or heedless “experimentalist,” a micromentality in a macrocosmic techno-order, an abysmally conditioned mentality trained to be “ecstatic” at the uncomprehended prospect of truthlessness and authoritylessness, i.e. narcotic subjectivism or licentious “relativism.”  For such types life itself–all the moreso in all its plethora of extended and arcane possibilities–can only be a cryptogram to which they have no kind of key; they can no longer recapitulate the primal rationales that once grounded traditional societies in myth, faith, culture, values, principles, etc.  “Knowing” for such neologizing types is no longer the agonal search for principles that may be gnosically or discriminatingly grasped through philosophy, culture or religion; “knowing” is, rather, just another task for disciplined technique to take care of, contracted out to “specialists” known as “scientists.”  To so-called scientists and their cult of expertise, droves of moderns slavishly capitulate and uncritically attune their mentalities as the ancient Greeks never did, even to priests, much less to philosophers or even to kings.

The naked truth, the deeply hidden pudenda of modern science, consist in the actuality that in general it cares nearly nothing about “truth” of any sort; like careerist academia and the piratico-corporate universe, like the ranks of political office and even the elevated reaches of organized religion, “science” is composed overwhelmingly of complexes of self-interestedness, and that means generally (as we see from the public debates on global warming and rectification of financial crises) mind-whores who know what to suck and when.  If you happen yourself to be implicated in our banausically structured, banausically corrupted world-order—and if you aren’t, then how the hell did you ever make yourself possible as such an anomaly?—then for decades and decades you have perceived and probably accepted as unexceptionable the ever-more-pervasive, ever-more-constrictive bourgeois mercenariness, the gospel of All Things Are Possible. There is no impartial, dispassionate, “transcendently” objective economic or financial “wisdom” that can be appealed to to doctor or even to diagnose our structural ills:  the unleashing or absolutization of finance and of economism is in toto the idiopathy of the disease which is our “culture” and our “psyches.”  “Materialism” is the uncomprehending taxonomy of a cultural affliction manifested precisely by this incomprehension, this decisive crippling of self-diagnostic value-intelligence.

What is all-important to “science” is the internally structurable hypotheses or “fictions” of technology:  for no kind of actual “science” but merely technology is what drives the engines of research, what creates demand for scientific specialties, what funds the pathways of institutionalized careers.  Late-modernity no longer cares about the Whole, the cosmos and how it self-orchestrates and self-evolves to yield not just lawfulness but also Life and Consciousness; late-modernity has not only no place but also no ethos to support such quixotic and antiquarian curiosity, such “wonder” as once begot philosophy and religion.  We exist to (and are only rewarded or tolerated to the extent we do) further a cult of obsessions with how to accomplish a so-called “way of living” rankly oblivious to all the classical whys of living.  But the core or principle of “technology” is no kind of ultimately organizing and illuminating “logic” but only occlusive manias, just like erotomania that drives the worldwide organizations of prostitution, pornography and “human trafficking”; and just like narcotomania that drives designer-pharmacology, obscenely profitable systems of distribution, so too the waves of user-demand in technomania are not only not extinguishable but also not even identifiable any longer.  Modernity “believes in” license both in war- and vice-profiteering to which the sky’s the limit (rather:  the abyss of Plutonian Tartarus is the limit), and also in the unleashing of mass-appetites for fetishist-techno-devices and virtualities and ideological idealizations.  These are both so patently the dynamics of vacuous and all-consuming processes, Mephistophelean and cyclonic “bad infinites” that own modern mentalities outright:  that vortex of self-exacerbation is the way mania presents itself among the mind-ruined or witless manics, the way the finite gets consumed by insatiable, infinite, unresolvable, or daimonic imperatives.

Modernity has scrupulously purged the vestiges not just of traditional culture but also of any or all culture as such, any corpus of values intrinsically valid and independent of the apparatus of managed “demand”:  the “market” hopes to “capture” human appetites with techno-engineered produce/protein (the same way it snared them before with artificial beverages), thus doing for the food and drink industry what it long ago succeeded in doing for the consumption of artifactual/commercial culture.  Modernity is that machine-world that is the abstract reciprocal to finitely-controlling but also self-oblivious ego, it is a treacherous minister to the equally treacherous hot-and-cold-blowing appetites, impulses, imperatives, manias, and ideological straitjackets of myopic, unprincipled and mercurially self-interested ego.  Hegel already grasped (see his Philosophy of Mind, pp. 128ff) that “ego,” as the vital principle of Kant’s “rational” but vacuous ethics, was at the same time the equivocal quintessence of self-elusive arbitrariness that could plunge all rationality and ethics alike into a lucid but intoxicating barbarism, animality, and evil.  In Either/Or I (p. 24 of the Swensons’ tr.), Kierkegaard graphically encapsulated the cockeyed self-incoherence of modern egos with the premise of a pair of glasses one lens of which magnified anything at will to make it seem as important or vital as one liked, and the other reduced anything at will to make it appear absolutely trivial:  there’s nothing good or bad, or sacred or evil, or therapeutic or pathological, or constructive or destructive—or significant/valuable or insignificant/valueless—but omnipotent, subjectivizing “thinking” makes it so.  Or so moderns have wanted or needed to suppose; but what–truly and diagnostically–was the covert character or fatalism of that “need to believe”?  As Nietzsche so often expressed it:  “what in us” needed to drive us to this destination?  Don’t expect self-oblivious modern egos, with their egocentrically anchored or ad hoc self-certainty, to know, or even to have mused about the question.

Saul Bellow indeed cracked open the granitic “inverted world” of modern nihilism’s Babbittry:  “History had created something new in the USA, namely crookedness with self-respect or duplicity with honor” (Humboldt’s Gift).  The longer modernized dysculture has evolved as an apotheosized licentious self-indulgence—a contortionarily self-righteous or morally-religiously impregnable “laissez-faire” nihilism—the more profound its contempt (and its incomprehension) has grown for “foundationalism” of any sort, that is, especially for all of premodern cultures’ former axiomatics taken as efforts at ultimate justifications, ethoi, nomoi, or “mythic” groundings in wisdom and piety.  Before modernity, no civilized order had formally, explicitly and unashamedly thought of installing the most virally potent, the crassest of all vices as narcissist-deific “virtues” and “values.”  To be “modern” is to learn how to carry out an existence of self-absorbed involutedness in the string of episodic experiments or buzzword-rhetorics that constitute the fickle, flirtatious, intoxicated, and whorish present:  what Rabelais’ monks held as their motto, “Do as thou wilt,” has come to seem so obvious and incontrovertible to moderns more generally that what at one time would have been a contained, exceptional bladder of subjectivist toxins and tumors has metastatized to become—for the most impotent as well as for the most powerful among us—an organism or a whole, a cosmos or universe unto itself, a depraved “truth” or apodictic “ultimate” beyond which there is no appeal.  The “code” or ethos of the modern system invites little fish to exercise the Law of the Jungle because it knows full well that bigger fish, and bigger still, thrive even better in those predatory games of class-war:  casting off their moral, legal and political and social, cultural and religious “impediments,” prey-species are merely facilitating their own consumption by others inconceivably more expedient and conscienceless.  “All things are possible, nothing is forbidden,” necessarily means unfathomably different orientations to different species of character and culture.

The once-finite and anomalous inclusion of self-absolutizing ego (the compulsion of “egologism”) within the orders of nature and culture has again and again revealed egomania’s  hybristic or carcinogenic inner logic and character (the rhetoric and ideology of “egologism”); but profound and strategic shifts in the dynamics or principles of culture and self-understanding have enabled Ego to make itself a cornerstone to which all else in modern dysculture has to be squared up.  The most viscous actuality in existence is to be grasped as if it were a “certainty,” an “axiom” that could be counted on or reckoned from; the most self-treacherous or self-deceptive factor taken as if it could function as the root for a Porphyrean tree of logic; the most self-obscure and indeterminate questionability in all the cosmos seized upon as if had a simple, fixed and abstractly definable value or meaning, an effortlessly graspable or obvious “identity” to itself.  –Welcome to the dynamo that stirs up the abyss of modern “confusion of realms,” life without either a foothold in actualities or a center of gravity to define a “place” for itself.  Kafka already focused these issues in a gnomic aphorism:  “He found the Archimedean point, but he used it against himself; it seems that he was permitted to find it only under this condition.”  A far more simple-minded form of reflection once asked, if you found a universal solvent, what would you keep it in?  But Kafka has implicitly asked:  What dementia makes you imagine you are somehow immune from it yourself?  Indeed moderns so little comprehend their own selves that they cannot grasp that this universal solvent is merely another current, another hyperactive hormone within their self-oblivious “self.”

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2 Responses to “The Cave Of False Consciousness IV of IX”

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