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Baroque Quantities – In Wittgenstein’s Labyrinth
If the Enlightenment was the Age of Reason, we are living in a new Baroque Age of the Body. Wittgenstein was one of its early thinkers. With his radical discovery – ‘Philosophy is dead! Everything is allowed!” – he liberated philosophy from the burden of truth and logic. Philosophy could become businesslike and insincere. Some today like Alain Badiou try to bring back truth, but it’s not the same. History is truly irreversible. You can never go home again. Simon Glendinning insists though Wittgenstein wants to bring us back – but to a place where we never were.1 How is that possible?
Not only is philosophy dead, the Critic is also an anachronism. The Critic discloses the ‘behind the scene’ – but the behind has collapsed. All that remains is inside the Scene. ‘Outside’ is a fatal illusion sustained by the world of action. Everywhere is anywhere and it all looks alike. There is no way out – “to cross borders is no longer to exit anything”. (Eyal Weizmann)2
A similar time was the Baroque. The forms of the Baroque are hermetic and all on the surface. They envelop and enclose. Wittgenstein’s philosophy resembles baroque anamorphic painting. As in Holbein’s “The Ambassadors”,
Remarks made during the Symposium: “Ways out of Wittgenstein”, Part 3 of Shannee Marks & Peer Wolfram, Faust Series Opus 8: The Accident Colony, Dramatic Investigations, Triptych from the Dark Night of Suburbia, Austrian Cultural Forum London, 2nd -12th September 2008. 2 Tate Triennial 2009 Prologue 2: Exiles, 28 June 2008, Tate Britain
viewed from the front one sees a bishop and a nobleman in a princely chamber, seen from the edge, a distorted wafer-shape in the foreground at their feet metamorphoses into a large death’s head.
Wittgenstein’s life certainly was one of extremes – his philosophy though is one of limits, restrictions, rules and obedience. Bernard Burgoyne, referring to the early Wittgenstein, even before the Tractatus, when he was still a close associate of Bertrand Russell said –“Oxford, Cambridge, London was 'the golden triangle' - the power base for the intellectual elites, the Russell Wittgenstein program was an 'imperialistic' one - to lay foundations for all knowledge in this certain kind of logic - also using set theory. All that collapsed and failed. Wittgenstein lost his faith - his belief in it."3 This collapse more or less coincided with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the secure world of wealth and power into which Wittgenstein had been born. It was also perhaps the last possible moment in British intellectual history when such an imperialistic program could have been conceived – the First World War was the first mortal blow to the British Empire. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus logico-philosophicus, written shortly after World War One, could easily be seen as a nihilistic credo of a writer whose power base has been shattered.
In conversation with the author, monadic dialogue from: “The Conference”, Sound Installation, in Shannee Marks & Peer Wolfram, Exhibition, Part 1 of The Accident Colony, op. cit.
If Wittgenstein’s philosophy is “will to power” – he begins at the ideal point of powerlessness. In his “War” Journal he meditates upon a paradoxical configuration – power at whose genesis is the complete lack or absence of power. When power is defined as energy applied to the world – moving outside of its source – then Wittgenstein’s initial state is one of total lack of energy, less even than a passive state – energy could still be present but inactive. His initial state is an unnatural vacuum – a state drained of all energy. This is a possible delimitation (definition) of Wittgenstein’s nihilism: a philosophy of power whose starting point is the state of powerlessness, the inability to influence events, state of the world to any degree whatsoever.
“I cannot bend the happenings of the world to my will: I am completely powerless.” (11 June 1916 from Diaries 1914-1916, quoted in Lars Hertzberg “The Powerlessness of the Will”, Internet pdf p.1)4
Is this a mutual relation – perhaps “I” am completely powerless, but does that mean that the world cannot bend me to its “will”. And if the world could do so, how am “I” different from the world – that I have absolutely no power to bend it to my will? One is also uncertain if this powerlessness, to which Wittgenstein refers, is an original state or is it the consequence of a loss or failure of power? In the first case he would be describing a natural or ontological predestination, in the
This is an early expression of the “shattered power base”. No power is ever completely shattered. But perhaps the desire, which animates power –the intangible of power – a prerequisite of will – can be extinguished.
second he would be alluding to a kind of “fall” or total and complete decline of power. The world is a fait accompli, which happens without my intervention. The sentence which concludes this journal entry suggests that this separateness of the “I” and the world is not just undesirable.
“Nur so kann ich mich unabhängig von der Welt machen – und sie also doch in gewissem Sinne beherrschen – indem ich auf einen Einfluß auf die Geschehnisse verzichte.” (“Only in this way can I become independent of the world – and so in a certain sense rule it – by forfeiting any influence upon events or happenings.”)
Wittgenstein’s “powerlessness” is one of an “I” who is distant from the world, who is outside of it, and by forfeiting closeness or influence, masters it on an oblique plane of his own choosing. He has become an onlooker or spectator of the world and even of his own will “penetrating” the world. He is outside of the world, but so is its meaning.
When Wittgenstein says he is powerless – he has placed himself in a sort of suspension – the world is no longer a natural envelopment or folding in which the I resides (Heidegger’s being-in-the-world), but the I has removed himself from the world, become unhumanized and indifferent to its happenings. The powerlessness can only be reciprocal if it is to be at all – reciprocal negatives. I am excluded from the world – in the sense of energy or power to transform it, the world is excluded from the “I” in the same way. The World is excluded from my power sphere; I am excluded from the World’s power sphere.
“I” may become independent of the world, but the world is independent of my will from the outset. The world is always ahead of me – the world is also Life, a word used by Wittgenstein in an almost pre-philosophical manner, like God. Philosophy can never touch Life, it happens to me whether I will it or not. Yet in an entry from 8.7.16 Wittgenstein writes: “There are two Gods: the World and my independent I.” But how is it possible that both propositions are true: I am totally powerless and I am a co-divinity together with the world? He seems to oscillate between a state of abdication from the world and kind of folie de grandeur, a Godlike omnipotence. But perhaps the world is not the world which is but one which was – as Wittgenstein says, the world is given to me; it is something completely “finished”.
One can assume that the past is the realm of pure actuality. Potentiality can only exist now (in not existing) or in the time to come. The past is only a limit to the potentiality inherent in the now. This may be a blessing - the “possible worlds” to come could be possible catastrophes – as Kierkegaard observes, actuality is not as heavy as possibility. Why does the expectation of possible worlds always sound utopian? Wittgenstein’s dilemma, already apparent in his Diaries, is how to turn his quantitative world into a world of qualities – Life. ‘The World and Life are one’ is a refrain of all his writings. But one is only “happy” when one lives in the present, meaning “unzeitlich”, not in time. He declares: “What do I care about history? My world is the first and only one!” (2.9.16) And yet what will he do in his world? “I want to report, how I discovered the world as it is.”(ibid.)
The past is just as unknown as the future. Although one sees the future as that which one has to predict, to prophesize. Who would prophesize what has already happened? The past is the domain of pure actuality – all potentiality has been realised, exhausted in what is there. This is the world towards which no power can be directed – no power of whatever magnitude can change the past. Such a world of pure actuality would certainly fit Wittgenstein’s “homily” about his powerlessness. One can also see how his “will” would “penetrate the world” – certainly the world of the past has no resistance to one’s will. No possible worlds remain in the past – the past is exact and non-quantifiable, being the location of zero possibility, or zero terrain for the unfolding of power. The past as pure actuality is neither a means nor an end.
Wittgenstein resolves this antinomy of being both powerless and God-like after a fashion – abdication or forfeiting of influence upon events in the world is his declared way of regaining a certain kind of power in that world. Thus there is logic in his philosophical “will to power”, the logic of defeat. From the point of view of a defeated power – powerlessness is a natural and ideal starting point for a philosophical “reconquista”. The given world has no meaning because it is no longer the world in which I can see my power reflected or embodied. If Wittgenstein were to acknowledge the logical connection between Will and the world, he would be acknowledging his powerlessness within it. Instead his “nihilism” is not just the evacuating of meaning (ethics), power has also been voided. This is not an ambivalence – it is almost an ‘epoché’. He begins the analysis or reconstruction of power where it is absent – a kind of zero of power. He shows himself as a skeptic of a world
constituted by power – perhaps as an exercise in method, a thought experiment.
Bare Life, the concept of Giorgio Agamben, educed from the phrase “bloßes Leben” (literally: simply or simple life) in Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence”5, is also a thought experiment about powerlessness, a juridical fiction – the absence of all power, pure subjugation to sovereign law.6 Agamben seems though to misrepresent and distort Benjamin’s critique of the notion of “simply life”. Whereas Benjamin rejects “simply life” as a false and crude name for Being (Dasein) and an inferior primitive category of “mythical violence” or law, Agamben naturalizes it further with another concept borrowed from ancient Roman law – homo sacer. Bare life, in his interpretation, is thus not just a kind of biological substrate of human existence; it is also a term for the criminal pariah – a species of Cain, who can be murdered by anyone with impunity, but perversely, not sacrificed.7 This doubly bare figure – bare of all protection by law and of anything except naked existence is Agamben’s prototype of the “biopolitical” animal. He is both a natural body and a mere naked scaffold for the law – a double character vaguely reminiscent of Marx’s concept of the commodity of labor power. How though did a particular type of ostracism and taboo
Walter Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt. “Gewalt” means both power and violence – Benjamin explores all the ambiguities, which arise from this double meaning. 6 See Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press, 1998. Agamben’s concept has been recently popularised as one of the three major themes of Documenta 12, Kassel Germany, 2007. The other two were “Modernity” and “Education”. 7 Although Roman law forbids the sacrificing of “homo sacer” – the mythical law to which Benjamin refers is particularly keen to sacrifice “simply life”. Agamben’s construct seems to fall apart at this joint. “Die mythische Gewalt ist Blutgewalt über das bloße Leben um ihrer selbst, die göttliche reine Gewalt über alles Leben um des Lebendigen willen. Die erste fordert Opfer, die zweite nimmt sie an.” (The mythical power is a blood-power over simple life for its own sake, the divine - pure power over all life for the sake of the living. The first power demands sacrifices, the second accepts them.) W. Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt, Angelus Novus, Frankfurt, 1966, p. 63)
practiced in ancient Rome suddenly become the absolute model for the relation between the contemporary body and sovereign power? The way this happened, says Agamben, is through the “Camp”. The “Camp” was the space, which constituted the Nazi state as a permanent normalized “State of Exception” where the exception became the rule. Agamben notes that this socalled “state of exception” was constantly superseded by the positive principle of “Führung” or the word of the Führer, the only “law” of the Nazi political entity. In light of this one real fact of the “Führer”, the “Camp” was not outside of the State in a “zone of indistinction” but at its center. Modern democracies are in Agamben’s estimation forever more just aggregates of this “bare life” invented in the “Camp”.
What Agamben omits in a very pointed fashion is the purpose of the “Camp” – to do away with itself and its raison d’être via genocide. Not the “Camp” but genocide is the instrument by which “ (…)the German biopolitical body is made actual. The separation of the Jewish body is the immediate production of the specifically German body, just as its production is the application of the rule.”8
Such a life could never exist in a pure state. Bare Life does not live. That is why Agamben has to prop it up with “Sovereign Power” as its symbiotic twin – the model for this Sovereign Power is predictably the Führer. The more abject and abandoned Bare Life is, the more grandiose the “sovereign power” which exerts its ban. The Muselmann and the Führer are forever dialectically united as the “two bodies of the King”. In a similar but inverted way - “Empire” as
Homo Sacer,op. cit, p. 174
imagined by Negri and Hardt has to become so bloated so as to be the guarantee of the equivalent dimensions of a global Revolution.9
Like Wittgenstein at the beginning of the 20th century, these mostly Italian thinkers of a “post Fordist”, post-Marxist left, have developed their philosophies out of a perceived collapse or defeat of their world and its movement. In his foreword to Virno’s “Grammar of the Multitude” another seminal text of this Italian revival of political (state) theory, Sylvère Lotringer writes: “Clearly they needed an oversize enemy to build up the defeated Italian movement into a global counter power.”10 Besides, “Empire” as Negri/Hardt see it, is also a product of “defeated” nation-states, dissolved and metamorphosed into generic labyrinthine supranational entities. Two defeats make one victory. This is a clear logic of defeat, or something which only defeat can give the semblance of logic. The euphoria of defeat resting its case on such a deluded logic sweeps its victims forward into a self-deceiving drive for power. Such phenomena akin to mass hysteria are not uncommon in history. The fascist movement in Germany came out of the defeat in World War I – to defeat the defeat. Fascism itself is not the cause; it is a phenomenon of defeat. Similarly, as Nietzsche said, nihilism is not a cause; it is the “logic of decadence”. Fascism appears to its ‘World’ as a messianic cure
By connecting “biopolitics” so irrevocably and enthusiastically to Nazi extermination politics, it would appear that Agamben has brought this staple of contemporary Italian-French political theory somewhat into disrepute. Negri has distanced himself explicitly from the notion of “nuda vita” in both “Empire” and in “Il mostro politico. Nuda vita e potenza” . In “General Intellect, Exodus, Multitude” Paolo Virno writes: “(…) Agamben is a problem.” (see Brett Neilson, Potenza Nuda? Sovereignty, Biopolitics, Capitalism, Contretemps 5, December 2004) Agamben seems to be aware of the risk of uniting himself too firmly to Nazi eugenics and death camp ‘experiments’ when he comments on Heidegger’s own supposed divergence from “National Socialism”: “And this is the point at which Nazism and Heidegger’s thought radically diverge. Nazism determines the bare life of homo sacer in a biological and eugenic key, making it into the site of an incessant decision on value and nonvalue in which biopolitics continually turns into thanatopolitics (…)” (Homo Sacer, op. cit., p. 153) 10 Paolo Virno, Grammar of the Multitude, MIT Press, 2004, p. 14
for decadence – miraculous rejuvenation. Total defeat is discovered to be an untapped source of energy from which world power can be regenerated – this is a true discovery having to do with the mysteries of the human will. Nietzsche was a prophetic thinker who radiated euphoria more typical of defeat than victory. He was also an acute observer of the manifold unconscious ways of self-deception, the 700 passions of defeat. “Everything is false! Everything is allowed!”11 He noticed a nearly biological propensity to overestimate the power of the will in any exercising of the will: “Weil man in den allermeisten Fällen nur will, wenn der Erfolg erwartet werden kann, wird die ‘Nothwendigkeit ‘ des Erfolgs dem Willen als Kraft zugerechnet.” (“As one mostly only wills something, when success can be expected, the ‘necessity’ of success is credited as an additional power to the will.”, Posthumous Fragments, Summer-Autumn, 1884)
In Wittgenstein’s “later philosophy” powerlessness or the imperviousness of the world to my will is also a quasi-mathematical fact. Wittgenstein uses mathematics allegorically to speak and not speak about Power - Life subjected to Rules. The Rules are propositions for the transformation of “bare life” into the Body Politic (form of life). The “Will” referred to in the early journals has been depersonalized in the Rules. The “I” no longer contemplates any form of direct and personal steering (lenken) of the world, the rules act instead of the “I” as his transmission. The religious cast of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy with its many references to God and ethics and mysticism persists in the later
Carl Hanser Verlag, Volume 6, Posthumous Writings from the Eighties, p. 424
philosophy.12 He often ascribes the following of the rules to intimations from God. Grammar his faux metaphysics is simply “theology”. One could read the “Philosophical Investigations” as meditations on the Political in the sense of a Political Theology. The “Philosophical Investigations” though are not a “vision of language” as many interpreters insist (Mulhall et al.), they are a vision of power and how it is applied. The Weltanschauung expressed by Wittgenstein’s monologist or pseudo dialogist is comparable to the ‘Sovereign’ of an absolute state or a baroque tyrant, in the sense analyzed by Benjamin in his study of the baroque spirit “Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels” (The Origins of German Tragic Drama), contemplating the limits of his power: the lack of absolute, immediate obedience in his subjects, despite his divine appointment. Wittgenstein’s pessimism originates in the indestructible empirical-mathematical non-identity between the Order (Command) as a linguistic object, a verbal chimera and the following of the Order by the Subject as a physical act. He is baffled by the “fact” of obedience and disobedience. Ideally the subject should not follow an order – he should be the order who in his following merely enacts himself. In other words, in an ideal quantitative world he should be “bare life”.
Are Rules Spectacles? Rules are the generality of the “form of life” which represent themselves to us mentally, visually as a quasi-sacred image binding
Interestingly some years prior to Wittgenstein’s Diaries Husserl, published his first writings on the “phenomenological reduction” involving an epoché or bracketing of the world (Ideen I, 1913), a meditative exercise resembling a “religious conversion”. Mathematical-logical discourse freely mingled with religious transcendental concepts. Both these Husserlian elements are already present in Wittgenstein’s War Diaries – the “I” as onlooker outside of the world and the religious nature of this self-exile. Bertrand Russell continues this crossbreeding of mathematics and mysticism in his “Mysticism and Logic” published in 1918.
us to themselves, to the imperative of obedience to them and to the generality for which they perform the function of a decree.
Rules exist in us as innate hallucinations commanding our obedience. But in the very act of binding us, of creating bondage, they also separate us from ourselves and those Others who like us are tethered to them. The “form of life” as a so-called “shared world” is destroyed by the rules at the very moment they create it. The creation-destruction of the “form of life” is continuous, instantaneous, and transfinite. How can we ever achieve Wittgenstein’s paradise of “Übersichtlichkeit” or perspicuity, the Olympian panorama of our rules, when the obstacle blocking our vision of the rules are the rules themselves? The only “shared world” is the rebellion against the rules. Only when the rules are negated do they have their complete ripe meaning.
Wittgenstein’s thinking about rules stops short at the exception, as if he were afraid even to entertain such a notion. Paradoxically the exception appears to be the missing link for his whole system of rules and rule following.
The “rules” in the later philosophy are finally as powerless in affecting the world as the “Will” in the early philosophy.
2. Aesthetic Pain – New Baroque
If quantity were not in itself a pain, why would one attempt to soothe it by allowing for inexactitude? But is exactitude only to be found in quantity? One
cannot escape quantity by being inexact – the quantity in its real state is not less because it is represented inexactly. Exactitude and inexactitude are found in language and other systems of measurement, like truth and falsehood. The false scale. Quantity has the rhythm of monotony. The constancy of quantity is its quality. This is a source of pain. To exactly follow a rule is not necessarily a question of quantity – a rule can be ‘broken’ in an unknown number of ways, none of which need be numerical. The way to guarantee the least inexactitude in following the rule is to diminish the gap between the rule/order and obedience to it. The gap should aspire to zero. The rule and the following of the rule should be nearly identical.13 Closeness of the rule to the following of it is the primary quality of the rule. It is the same closeness as in the monadic enclosure. This is also a way of defining baroque art or aesthetic – the least possible distance to the object. The romantic aesthetic or poesis is seemingly opposed to this baroque adhesiveness of the vision and the visible – the romantic perspective is a function of distance and the poetic elevation of an object by moving away from it. The idea of distance: everything seen from a distance is gilded in mystery, poetry. When distances fade or disappear, what sort of state sets in? Threat and prose – that which seems unavoidable.
The Rule and the Camp: What is the rule in the camp? This is Agamben’s question. The rule in the camp is the exception. The exception has the form of a body, an extended
“206. Einer Regel folgen, das ist analog dem: einen Befehl befolgen. Man wird dazu abgerichtet und man reagiert auf ihn in bestimmter Weise. Aber wie, wenn nur der Eine so, der Andere anders auf Befehl und Abrichtung reagiert?” (To follow a rule is analogous to obeying a command. One has been drilled to obey and one reacts in a certain way. But what if someone reacts to the order and drill so and someone else reacts differently?) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophische Untersuchungen (Philosophical Investigations)
human body stretching from the animal to the creature wavering between human and inhuman, the ‘neomort’ – the Muselmann. Agamben interprets this figure of abandonment through the matrix of the “political theology” devised by the Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt. The original sovereign condition is accordingly the “state of exception”. ‘Homo sacer’ is the exceptional being inhabiting the state of exception or for whom the state of exception is the ordinary case. Or – if only exceptional beings inhabit the state of exception, they are the ordinary inhabitants of the state of exception – if a non-exceptional being is amongst them – he becomes the exceptional being in the state of exception.
This body or ‘bare life’ does not follow the rule-law, he is the body of the law. The gap or void between the rule and obeying the rule is closed or filled in by the body. This recalls the baroque “allegorizing of the physis”(Benjamin) in the tragedies of the martyr-tyrant. The tyrant who has been the law of absolute power remains that law as martyred corpse. As a live tyrant or dead martyr – he is the indissoluble unity of body and law. Agamben’s prime example of the gapless unity of rule and obedience is the Führer’s voice. All of Wittgenstein’s rule dilemmas seem to be resolved in the double-bodied hybrid of the baroque tyrant and the Nazi Führer – and in their mirror image, ‘homo sacer’.
For the Renaissance tyrant or prince cruelty or pain is a calculated means of power, of obtaining it, keeping it. Pain is a necessary evil as is punishment. He thinks like an ancient Chinese strategist of warfare – power is not a gift of the divinity; it must be endlessly studied and contemplated. For the baroque
ruler cruelty or pain is a value in itself – as a way to obtain holiness, as a source of lust and desire, as the exuberance, superabundance and privilege of power.14 Being is that which is there (and ready) for an audience. The more aesthetic Being is, the more it is there for an audience. The Body of Pain (the world of the unhappy) is Being which is more than just for itself; it is Being whose very passivity (powerlessness) as martyrdom is dramatic action. Pain has the quality of concentrating all of Being in itself as affect. The drama of martyrdom – pain for an audience – is the unity of the body of grammar and the body of pain. Pain is itself and its own allegory. This is an axiom of baroque aesthetics. In the drama of baroque martyrdom the nothing of powerlessness turns through pain into the everything of power.
Pain is aesthetic, pleasure is domestic. Martyrdom is the affirmation of pain. The affect of pain, the propensity to suffer, as part of the sentient human physiology, carries within it the potential transcendent plane – transcendence is rooted in the biological organism, not in the ‘soul’. The allegorical ‘surplus’, the remainder of martyrdom is the emblematic corpse. Wittgenstein expresses the baroque sensibility in his remarks about the exceptional position occupied for the living by a corpse: “Und so scheint uns auch ein Leichnam dem Schmerz gänzlich unzugänglich.—Unsre Einstellung zum Lebenden ist nicht die zum Toten. Alle unsre Reaktionen sind verschieden.—Sagt Einer: “Das kann nicht einfach daran liegen, daß das Lebendige sich so und so bewegt und das Tote nicht”—
The German romantics rediscovered this baroque sensibility – as Novalis wrote: “It is curious that the association of sexual pleasure, religion and cruelty has not long since drawn people’s attention to their close relationship and their common tendency.”(Die Enzyklopädie, Werke und Briefe, Stuttgart, 1962, p.493)
so will ich ihm bedeuten, hier liege ein Fall des Übergangs ‘von der Quantität zur Qualität’ vor.”15
Ecstasy is a state of being like beatitude belonging neither to pain nor to pleasure. It goes beyond both, it can blot out pain for its duration and individual pleasure drowns in it like a ray of light in the sun. Ecstasy is neither pain nor pleasure, public nor private. It is a fragment of something infinite. Ecstasy is one of those Unnameables, Being which is beyond language, the magic prison of the Social. One knows ecstasy is real because afterwards it names its sudden price. In the legends of the saints the body is made to suffer for the soul – even without a belief in the transcendent soul, surely it cannot just be the body wanting to suffer for the — body?
The baroque state as a permanent ‘state of exception’ is a natural body in a divine order – not a prize to be conquered. Paradoxically the divine order legitimating the ‘state of exception’ of baroque sovereignty is founded on the expectation of catastrophe. Nature and human nature are essentially catastrophic. Sade parodies the mentality of a baroque tyrant in his 120 Days of Sodom – the citadel of volatile insatiable passion. The Renaissance ruler employs cruelty in a rational fashion – the baroque ruler irrationally. The instability of the baroque ruler’s affects is a source and cause of catastrophe and end of power. “Tout est dans la fin” says Gerard de Nerval. The other face of the tyrant’s drive for absolute obedience is his indecision – a recurrent
“A corpse seems to us to be unreachable for pain. – Our attitude towards the living is not the same as towards the dead. All of our reactions are different. – Someone says: “That can’t just be that the living move here and there and the dead don’t” – then I want to make him understand, that here we have a case of the transition from ‘quantity to quality’.” Wittgenstein, op. cit., 284.
theme of baroque drama. Hamlet is one example of many. He is undecided, because his decisions are not based on reason and logic, as in the case of the Renaissance tyrant, but on his endlessly vacillating affects, physical impulses or emotions. Eventually he becomes a martyr to his own sensibility.
This is the baroque mentality – everything arises out of affect. Spinoza’s “Ethics” is the book of the baroque soul. Affect and not interest moves the baroque world – the eruptive urges of the ruler’s physis as they interact with the spectacular appetites of the mass body or so-called multitude.
A bourgeois domesticated example of such a baroque character is Hans Karl in Hofmannsthal’s “Der Schwierige” (The Intractable, 1922), a portrait of aristocratic Viennese society just after the disappearance of the Habsburg Empire. Wittgenstein was also a “Schwierige”. His method of leaving all questions undecided and uncertain reflects this ‘despotic’ indecision. His mental processes are determined by physical impulses such as fear and social inbreeding as much as by thoughts.16 Finally when indecision must come to an end – Wittgenstein says “my spade reaches rock bottom” – “§211. “…Well, how do I know (how to continue)? – If that means ‘Have I reasons?’ the answer is: my reasons will soon give out. And then I shall act without reasons”.
“212. Wenn jemand, den ich fürchte mir den Befehl gibt, die Reihe fortzusetzen, so werde ich schleunig, mit völliger Sicherheit, handeln, und das Fehlen der Gründe stört mich nicht.” (When someone whom I fear gives me the order to continue the series, I will act rapidly with complete certainty and the missing reasons will not bother me.) Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
3. Wittgenstein Victims
The Myth of the Philosophical Investigations
The World (language) is a Labyrinth in which the Lover and the Beloved continuously approach one another upon labyrinthine ways which equally continuously move them apart.
The Purpose of the Investigations is to create a labyrinth of the “We” (‘language is a labyrinth of ways’) into which the ‘you’ is guided – conducted – seduced. Every ‘you’ is a potential beloved of the lover waiting in his labyrinth. The lover=the Minotaur=the monster of the labyrinth.
Out of the ruins (of disciples) one builds a labyrinth – the centreless universe – the all-devouring monad – the plural monad.
Only by losing oneself in the labyrinth can one be found by the lover – you have to want to get lost before the lover can find you in the labyrinth. Wanting to be lost creates in the potential beloved a vertigo of selfabandonment, surpassing any other sort of betrayal. One places one’s own genetic uniqueness in the service of the genetic destroyer. Is that a manifestation of the ‘death instinct’?
The labyrinth is dark – darkest of all is the lover. The Beloved is the light in the labyrinth.
The “We” is a labyrinth of disembodied voices – not necessarily in unison – but occasionally punctuating the darkness with a chorus-refrain or an amen – spoken as ‘we’ and at once in “Übereinstimmung” – all in one mood — the intimation, attuned and coinciding, coaxing and chiding the ‘you’ – the beloved – to ‘go on’.
The voices of the labyrinth were once ‘you’. They are now ‘we’ – the voices of the damned, the ‘mad virgins’ – the ghosts of the previous beloveds. Once ‘you’ becomes a voice of ‘we’ – he becomes a previous beloved – no longer the present beloved. These are the voices of the remembered loves. The ‘We’ is the chorus of dead loves.
When the ‘you’ of the beloved becomes a voice of the ‘we’ in the labyrinth, the ‘you’ dies as a beloved but the lover=philosophy dies for the ‘you’ as well. Or the ‘you’ does not know itself anymore. It is an atom of the ‘we’ of the seducing chorus. Which is the same thing as saying – the lover has died for the ‘you’. Only the next ‘you’ will revive the lover for the time in which the ‘you’ still resists becoming a ‘we’.
For the lover is also the hunter of the beloved – and what the lover hunts is the Will. This leads to Bruno – the myth of Actaeon. The chorus of dead loves are those who have received the mystical ‘mors osculi’ – death in the kiss.
© Shannee Marks, November 2008
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