(Lo-tech website, text based and intended to bring to mind, by association, the graphic bleakness of Pasolini’s The Gospel According to Matthew, stirring with good news. Primitive navigation by means of slow-time scrolling + a few links.)
Date: January 2017
1. POEMS 2016
2. THE HARD PROBLEM
3. THERESE & TIAMAT
4. NEWS OF 3 BOOKS
The philosophy of virtuality: a virtual allotment for the cultivation of virtual escape. To be current the site finds ways of moving continuously from I, Daniel Blake to La La Land and back again and back again and back again …
The Website of the Philosopher Rumpledsilkskin.
Now and then truth (contingent truth): - no allocation of infertile space happens except within the medium of the commodity and all resistance to and escape from the commodity is contained within this medium.
ON THE VIRTUAL ALLOTMENT:-
1. POEMS 2016
The terrestrial, Roger Taylor, arrived at these drafts (probably final) of poems during 2016. Poetry inhabits the As If.
HANGING IN A WARDROBE
Shocking strut with slut-strobe,
Hanging in a wardrobe
Turning against the flesh.
Feathering dress plus Press,
Cutting a line of coke
Tacking it tight to the throat.
Skinning pussy cat-walk,
Knifing Plato’s deep talk,
Stuffing fur with rag ’n bone,
Kilting those turned to stone
Smearing bloody red-coat,
Drowning the lost afloat.
To and fro high-blown shows,
From Blow to bruising blows
Theatre of cruelty
Fault lines of flash fashion
Strangling love and passion,
Like Neanderthal boy
Just a haute-couture toy,
With bird skull, bloodied fox,
Flapping end in a box
Screech RIP to Mum
Lost fashionista son.
Dog-head, dog-tired, dog-end.
Phrase used was turning against the flesh.
Perhaps meaning then, losing touch?
Intimacy starts life touching,
Cut to the quick, quivering fresh.
Slipping away we strain to clutch,
New we are sucking and clutching.
Flesh is sense of touch transitive
And this is flesh being alive,
The root of what is consciousness.
To cloak flesh is palliative,
Shrouded, nakedness can’t survive;
Being touched dies in holiness.
There is not awareness and touch,
Touch is physical awareness.
Paradise is not physical
Though pilgrims bear pain of the crutch,
While Christ’s body spreads tenderness.
Clapping life is not spiritual.
Seeking pressure of calf and thigh,
Contiguous, sweating pleasures
Raging through a lusting body,
Sound in the ear, sight in the eye,
Distant, not intimate measures
Of all life pounding heartily.
Harvey’s capering bloody point
Shrank away from an unkind probe,
Reich’s bions are erogenous.
Moments to live moments appoint
Vitalism’s truth to disrobe
Dead mechanism’s causal rust.
Only in a living body
Does dreaming make a kind of sense,
But sleep in Imitation Games
Is no more than a parody,
Background in computer science
Never is sweet, nocturnal flames.
It may be smartly argued that
Events still flow through processors
When all the outputs hibernate,
But a dream is as if it’s at
And how can our simulators
Fool themselves that they masturbate?
Living machines would have to be
Alive with full tactile feeling,
And deceived in dreaming feeling.
Flesh, grounds of our reality.
Warm duvet as we leave sleeping
Melts, dissolves dreamt believing.
Compare background and foreground tasks
And inputs, outputs and display
To simulate the world of touch,
Mechanical hands grope to clasp
Gather data bytes to convey
So like, yet do not lust as such.
Pinocchio’s strings like piped programmes
Raise him up to resemble life
An image that’s identical,
But to be real he some drams,
Fairy spirit, a kiss mid-life,
Wood transfused to flesh. Miracle!
Bristol boys we both were
You, literary poet-forger,
For you muniments room Redcliffe’s high allure,
For me Cotham’s green tower beckoned venture.
Furnaces to imagination’s fancier.
Was it we had to be something other,
Than ourselves something greater,
You starting with a gravedigger
Before a grave-faller
Longing for a wingéd trumpeter,
And I being Socrates and Simon Templar?
We sad wags of boys and dissemblers
Set for high tournaments like crusaders,
In sly garrets conjured our infernal armour
Filching your dark pieces in Canynge’s coffer
Where weeping damsels die for pleasure,
And I pressed logic to the soul to shatter.
Taken by cunning sprites, entranced knight-writers,
We to the lists of what’s real posed our theatres,
You with Rowley, Redcliffe’s glass stained, coloured,
And trick of light, unseated Walpole, you jousting prankster.
Hiding Somerset drawl I stood accuser
‘High tournaments fraud, people just make-believers’.
We did not want what was real but what was realer,
Mandalas of the mind making us as if diviner,
And from this in such a fleeting you were to conjure
Out of time medieval jewels romantic cults enrapture,
And I, quick facility bereft, in slow time smother
Canons in the mind not mine, but class-cult power.
But those cults, unmoved, blanked the foolery of players,m
Set you to Helle, shivering, starving, attic dreamer,
Devylles rounde, you putte poysonn to the beere,
Gone they revived you, in Love & Madness, Adonais, Oscar.
Ignored I found another way, so pull you back to hear a piper
With kids and rats like lemmings we will all to disappear.
Vanishing in Bristol’s old streets we liked to scamper.
Once imbeciles, minds alight flying helter-skelter
Through Saint John’s Steps, you to Redcliffe’s Northern Tower,
I climbed Park Street then to Bandon Hill and Cabot Tower.
From these soarings spied resurrection rising from the river,
Our high ground found for all, sweet other worlds to enter.
2. THE HARD PROBLEM
(Rumpledsilkskin’s terrestrial, Roger Taylor, the philosopher, is writing a book about consciousness. It is not expected to be finished until the end of 2017. In the meantime clues to what is intended are to be found in Taylor’s Preliminary Remarks. The book’s title may well be CONSCIOUS MATTER.
As I begin writing this book I am reading Ahmad Fāris al-Shidyāq. His Leg Over Leg. Its mode of construction, or its way of growth, I am inclined to adopt for the composition of this book. Perhaps ‘composition’ is too strong a word. Perhaps the concept of ‘serendipitous making’ would fit better, although Walpole’s arrogant discarding of Thomas Chatterton is an unfortunate association. I am thinking here not so much of my admiration of al Shidyāq, and not at all of the attractions of parody, but rather of my subject matter. The life of consciousness is not systematic in anyway, or, at least, this I will argue. Systematic focus is simply a tool of consciousness. If my book follows al-Shidyāq (or for that matter to compare with more familiar or more local territory, Laurence Sterne) it will be more like actual minds: conscious, desiring, feeling, sensing, thinking etc., but always a fusion of them all and always moving through time and space ( before, now and after, here and there). In this way it may catch its subject or resemble it.
But is consciousness a problem to be addressed? Or can the subject be taken for granted and there’s an end to it? For most people it can be left unaddressed, that’s for sure. I have said to several that I have before me an immense labour, which is a work about consciousness. Never have I been asked why I am bothering with this, especially at my age. No one has confided to me that they are troubled by the topic and that my setting about the task is for them thereby of interest. Of course I know the consensus would be different confronted by a philosophic and/or scientific community (e.g. Henry Marsh, eminent neurosurgeon, on BBC’s Artsnight programme 04.03.16, said ‘Being our own consciousness is a greater mystery than the Big Bang and the cosmos’) rather than my usual, limited range of acquaintances. And I must say I am a little perplexed myself to find I am committing to such an undertaking. When I finished what is currently my penultimate book I was of the firm conviction that it would be possible to retire from the theoretical life. This firmness soon dissolved. For one thing I had forgotten my inability to leave loose ends untied. There were several threads left behind from previous efforts which I saw a way of tidying by being able to combine them into a novella extolling the evolutionary advantages of being unnoticed. So Invisible Cells & Vanishing Masses was followed by Thérèse & Tiamat. At the same time I kept returning to the penultimate book, partly because of my interest in promoting it, but also because one of its longest parts (which in the context of the parts of that book is known as a cell, and the cell in particular known as Escape, Block 2 Cell 6, and probably much too long for any considerations appertaining to the aesthetic balance of the book as a whole) was, for some of the subject matter intrinsic to it, insufficiently tightly woven, its pattern not fully established or knotted off, so not long enough in fact, but how long is a piece of theory? More loose ends then.
But before I’ve started is there not already a contradiction? Is this not like my playing chess against my chess-playing machine, Kasparov, dramatizing the encounter as challenging quite legitimately for the world championship, but finding after a few moves, the computer set at one of its more basic levels, that I am already trapped and defeated? Well not quite! The mind, and as this is only the outset this is much too affirmative, like the universe itself, like any of its parts, is a simmering cauldron, subject to the forces of chaos and order. Loose ends have to be addressed but they will unravel. Revisiting the myth of Sisyphus I suppose, although it was a long time ago I read the Camus.
However, there is much more to this task than some inner compulsion for tidiness. Although if this compulsion is a disorder of the mind it should not be underestimated as I do find myself, wherever I am, constantly straightening reality, i.e. aligning cutlery, nudging mats, adjusting picture frames, etc: the attempt to impose order, something I do not really believe in. The ‘much more’ springs from a feeling of loathing towards a prevailing climate within science and philosophy, and more than anything it is this which has disturbed the repose I sought from a proposed retirement dedicated only to the making and attempted ordering of marks on paper, canvas and digitally sensitive surfaces (drawing, painting and tablet virtuality). What then provokes this loathing?
The matter is complicated. To begin with I am not any kind of immaterialist, nor do I think that understanding reality requires any abandoning of ordinary, philosophical logic. I cannot say how in introduction I am best described (this will become clearer later) but with these disavowals I am saying that what ordinarily would be taken to be positions hostile to science and philosophy I oppose too. Perhaps what I am about approximates to reinstating naive or direct realism, and as a result countering the seduction of what in science and philosophy is smart but careless thinking and insensitive understanding (the kind of thinking which leads science, paradoxically, to metaphysics).
However by way of introduction let me approach the matter very, very simply. There is a standard format adopted by film and programme-makers when attempting to educate or introduce the public about or to scientific topics. They start with some very general, theoretical patter (leaning over backwards to make learning fun and not alienating), presented by a mix of programme professionals and scientists active in the field, to be followed by what might be mistaken for hieroglyphic text but which is in fact a string of mathematical equations. It is clear that most of the audience will be at a total loss with this discourse. The text used is presented as proof, therefore as something which is true. And, of course this will be so unless the mathematical subject is contentious. Typically in such films and programmes the equations appear on blackboards, the chalk marks tracing a haste driven by creative frenzy. Somehow this heightens the emotive significance of proofs putting them on a par with the ‘spirituality’ of art, e.g. iconic paintings by Jackson Pollock or Francis Bacon! The seeming hieroglyph then undergoes a seeming deciphering or translation. There is a movement from propositions in mathematics to propositions about reality. But how is this? Is there not something problematic about the move from mathematical knowledge to ordinary language, and why should it be thought that professional scientists are proficient at this kind of translation. In fact why should it be presupposed that such translations are possible? Numbers are not hieroglyphs. So I might chalk up on a blackboard 2x + 2x = 4x and then quickly cut to a sequence of meta-mathematical equations (Russellian fundamentals) and claim these to be the ultimate mathematical proof of the primary equation so that 2x + 2x = 4x is proven both universally and necessarily true. I might then add to this, reverting to ordinary discourse, that maths therefore proves that two of anything added to two of anything will give four things, whatever those things are. Prima facie this assertion, now an assertion about reality, might seem unobjectionable. Mathematics then tells us about the structure of reality, in this simple case and presumably in much more complex cases. But this is not so straightforward. That + is equivalent to ‘added to’ and that x, in the equation, is equivalent to ‘anything’ and = is equivalent to ‘gives’ is to fail to identify +, x and = (in the equation) as the specific mathematical instruments that they are. Thus two reds added to two reds (in paint) do not give four reds, any more than two drops of water added to two drops of water give four drops of water, anymore than two vols of gas added to two vols of gas give four vols of gas, anymore than two noises added to two noises (say cheering at a football match) give four noises. Back in the real world the whole is often more than the sum of its parts or different from the sum of its parts.
Again by way of introduction and so very simply we get blackboard hieroglyphics followed by ordinary language claims like this opens up the possibility or makes plausible the notion of parallel universes or the real possibility in the future of time travel, none of these terms being technical. Professional scientists, mathematicians say things like this, and because they wave the mathematical wand they are believed. There seems to be no notion that what is said outside the seeming hieroglyph gives rise to a complex range of conceptual problems. All of this is bypassed by means of an invitation to the occult, trying to seduce ordinary understanding with the temptation to entertain that reality is much stranger than common-sense supposes. There is a delight on the scientist’s face as the absurdity of what is said is bounced into the realm of truth by the workings of proofs. But even at this early stage just stop to consider. ‘Parallel universes’ might seem to make sense but the notion of the universe (the aggregate of all matter, energy and space) is the notion of all there is physically, how then can there be a plurality of them, surely a contradiction in terms? Parallel anyway is a spatial concept so how can there be a space parallel to all of space. There is nothing unscientific or mystical about objecting in this way, it is rather an insistence on logic. The absurdity is one of translation from apriori proof to ontology. This is not to say that there cannot be material reality beyond the observable universe. Or consider the notion of time travel which has become almost an unquestioned commonplace in popular thinking and to which some science lends credence, a credibility based on equations involving space, time, mass and the mathematical complexities of relativity. There is little reflection on the logic of a conceptual structure that spans then, now and next, or being before, simultaneous with or after. What sense can be attributed to saying that something that was then but is not now is nonetheless now in that we can go to it now, so that it is then but now. Or, impossible though it is, if we were to travel to x that was then but is not now (now) then (in an entirely different sense) x then will become different from the x then that precedes now, but if x then was preceded by w at some other then and someone from some now had travelled to that w then then (in that entirely different sense) x then will also be different precluding the possibility of travel to x then. The whole concept is conceptually incoherent. The matter is as bad if travelling in the opposite ‘direction’. Though metaphorical we do speak and understandably of ‘travelling’ in time towards the future, whereas, certainly as a matter of empirical fact, we do not ‘travel’ backwards in time. However, the notion of time-travel is not that of living through each next moment to arrive quite naturally at some future date as we might specify it starting out, i.e. knowing that now is Tuesday and that next will be Wednesday and living through Tuesday until what is then now is Wednesday. What time-travel into the future requires is that what is now is what will be! We are supposed to go from what is now to what will be but for what will be to be now, but the way of getting to what will be is without living through the intervening period that makes sense of what will be being able to be the now of some future. What will be has not happened and so cannot exist now. What has not happened does not exist. The fiction that it does by-passes critical intelligence by means of a willing suspension of disbelief.
To hasty cognoscenti these objections will incur derision believing as they will that the sophistication of concepts given ordinary language names like time-warp etc., have not even been scratched. Perhaps these concepts are much more sophisticated than rudimentary skirmishes can allow (certainly the concept of time is contentious between science and philosophy) but the trouble is that rarely do such discussions begin. The wand is waved and everyone is acquiescent. But it is my intention to inflict much more damage than scratches in due course. The loathing then is for a world in which meritocratic power and a veneer of cleverness conceals shallow, hasty thinking, if not ignorance, and yet expects deference. There are so many factors that are a part of this. The cultural divide between science and the humanities plays its part. Typically it is said that scientists do not write well, but what truth there is in this is not a trivial truth about a formal, stylistic difference, rather it is a difference of substance, a difference in understanding how things are, a difference in being able to grasp our variable chaos of things; that our reality is mutable (although mathematics supposes it accounts for this in the abstractions of chaos theory but on examination I will argue this is just a case in point, and as far removed from the real as similar cases like games theory and flumes theory; subjects to be returned to). For example, assessing whether from Turing’s programming equations one can derive truths about the reality of thinking and consciousness requires a sensitivity to and conceptual creativity towards the ordinary. Turing may not have possessed this, as Wittgenstein may have had to point out to him in their talk of bridges collapsing. I am not prejudging how any of these particular issues are to be argued out (they will be returned to in detail). I am merely expressing at this stage how appalling I think it is that so much complex theory which gets taken seriously is generated by a lack of initial attention to or understanding of basic concepts, and how as a result the whole world may be distorted both theoretically and practically, just as medieval religion, despite the seemingly logical intricacy of its theodicy, warped the medieval mind and its social reality as a whole. The possible problems in science are compounded by the undoubted success of science in changing the world, so that its pronouncements carry undoubted, meritocratic authority. The ubiquitous dominance of artificial intelligence, information technology and robotics might lead one to suppose that the theorist pioneering these technological changes and I suppose for that matter their philosophical acolytes are in the best position to take on the so-called (in philosophy and then influentially echoed by Tom Stoppard) ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. It is my intention to challenge this presumption, and to challenge it to prevent our real lives being stolen from us. What should be realised about science despite all it has contributed to the unrealised possibilities of an easier life (and in the end this is the net value of science) is that scientists themselves for the most part do not disassociate themselves from the existing economic order, and, instead, make positive contributions to its progress and protection. The systems of labour employed by our economic order are highly dependent on scientific theory leading to an attempted reification of social life. If the drift of science in the consciousness debate is to bring the centre of life into a reified system then a radicalised movement is required to build a realist discourse in opposition before it is too late, allowing us confidently and so without apology to live as centres of anarchic or uncontrollable freedom.
Scientists often pose as radical wizards. Their knowledge is proffered as a sort of magical enlightenment for ordinary understanding which paradoxically science characterises as gripped by something resembling witchcraft from the Dark Ages (Richard Dawkins!). The spell is the maths and a grossly insensitive version of scientific method, the wizardry is a metaphysical invasion of terrestrial commonplaces, backed by a presupposition that everything reduces to quantifiable, measureable matter. So that, for example the solidity of the real world, the world we experience dematerializes into an underlying reality of particles and charges, measurements of energy and a preponderance of empty space, seemingly not at all the world as ordinary understanding experiences it. The enticing smile of the wizard (like Brian Cox on the telly) is there before us beckoning us to, like Alice, abandon the mundane for the rabbit-hole and Wonderland, and, of course Dodgson too was a mathematician and logician. But it is a misunderstanding to suppose that the translation from one mode of discourse to another is swapping a superior for an inferior language. Reality is as both these languages describe it, and if you lack the language of solidity and materiality your grip on reality is that of a Bowie avatar, weightless and abandoned in space. And, of course, the scientist’s radical posture is no more than a professional elitism and certainly not a radicalism in the traditions of real radicals like Rosa Luxemburg. Scientists are careerists, conformists, upholders of the status quo as well as the existing system of class differentiation. Science is not being used to dismantle the social order, instead it fully cooperates in building Huxley’s Brave New Worlds. In their tactile dealings with reality scientists are indistinguishable from everyone else but their institutional claim to knowledge establishes a deference towards their subject and so to towards all the systems it supports. But we need to say that reality is (metaphorically) as much a slab of solid concrete as it is a worm-infested plank of wood and that one is the other and one not realer than the other. Remembering A.J. Ayer, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3 is both scientifically measurable vibrations of catgut scratching strings and a sublime passage of the As If (a concept deeply embedded and elaborated in my theoretical history).
So these are some of the grounds of loathing on which this path to correction lies. And what is at issue is much more than disputed theory. The reification of consciousness is not simply a theoretical claim and if true an irresistible reality, but an assault on life itself, a social mechanisation, a pacification, a social practice and part of something much larger. The dominance of work, the dominance of time and motion is the landscape as a whole. It permeates everything. It is an ethic, it is social movement, life is for it not it for life, it drives the time and space in which we exist, nationals and migrants alike, it is the form of every slogan in political exhortation, it is the medium in which consciousness struggles not to suffocate. ‘Hard-working people who do the right thing’ are not thereby granted the keys of the kingdom or their children places at Eton. Instead they struggle to make ends meet, they take on debilitating debts that take lifetimes to repay; a life of anxiety and exhaustion, incarcerated in work (wage labour). This is the negative-side of work, its positive-side is accumulated capital, itself precarious. In the early stages of capitalist development the system lacked the professionalisms to dragoon its potential labouring classes, as a result this system was threatened by dissoluteness, laziness, depredation, so called, at the time, moral weaknesses (of the poor), which professional application transformed into criminality (Foucault). The reification of society had begun and on a scientific basis, driven by the reflexes of capital. But the path to correction involves dismantling the institutions of ‘correction’ and leads to regaining the theoretical high-ground, where lazy people are free to roam the commons and do the wrong thing, and live confident in the belief that they are the measure of all things. This is the hard problem of consciousness, why it matters, why it ferments loathing, and why I need to wrestle it away from those who fear our disorders of mind, which (and to partly mis-quote and entirely out of context) ‘in’ our ‘obscure dens, dimme caves, secret closets, merck clowdie taverns, darcke mistie victualling howses both loorckinge hydinge and absenting’ ourselves,’ these unrestrained disorders ferment ‘even on’ our ‘ale benches, in the midst of’ our ‘tippling jugges and quaffing pottes, great reasoners and talkers of devine matters & of things appending unto the same.’ (Taken from TLS 5887 review of Gerard Kilroy’s Edmund Campion.)
My starting point with the problem will be to revisit the before-mentioned Block 2 Cell 6 of Invisible Cells & Vanishing Masses. The point will be to extract from it what it contains about consciousness, putting to one side its main concern, namely the negation of determinism, although its positive account of autonomy is very much integral to the account of consciousness I want to give. The extracted content will be amplified to yield a fully articulated theory of consciousness as an irreducible, physical property, the nature of which does not exceed ordinary language and ordinary understanding. To this extent consciousness is not a mystery, and the efforts to make out that it is amounting to theoretical obfuscation: a means of gaining control of the conscious by denying them an existence beyond religion or science, denying them an existence within invisible cells (Genet, Taylor). Alongside the idea of consciousness as an irreducible physical property and fundamental to understanding this idea two other concepts, as I conceive the enterprise, will need detailing. One is the concept of direct perception and the other the concept of non-representational thought. Two concepts challenging to the axioms of science. Much more of this later.
This then will constitute the exposition. I add to the exposition a bundle of notes, unsystematic reflections, commentaries, on a number of texts (they demonstrate the application of ideas from the exposition in engaging with other texts). Reading these texts has accompanied the formation of my approach to consciousness and the notes I have made have helped in clarifying my position to myself, as well as suggesting to me a range of topics that must be dealt with before the topic as a whole can be concluded. The texts are Leibniz’s Monadology, Cooper and Leeuwen’s Alan Turing: His Work and Impact, Strawson’s Selves and Honderich’s Actual Consciousness (all weighty undertakings in their own right). As will become obvious there has been much reading beyond these texts but only these have compelled commentary. I include these notes because in their own right they are an impression of how being conscious of something can unfold, in this case the being conscious of consciousness as a subject. My intention though is never academic, never scholarly. I have neither the time, given my age, the resources, nor the inclination to produce a definitive textbook for students or a work competing for professional advancement (those days have gone). However, it is my intention to produce a work of rigorous argument and grounded vision challenging the professional treatments of the subject of consciousness both in philosophy and science. I do this in solidarity with what I call the vanishing and unnoticed masses! Quite seriously I intend this as a substantial addition to human thought, a motivation, ambition or possibly a grand delusion always present in my own being conscious.
Before concluding these preliminaries there is something else. For good or ill, for enlightenment or otherwise, I have spent much of my life in philosophy. As a result I have known a number of philosophers, all, and how could they be anything else, conscious beings. Their being conscious beings a precondition of whatever identity or particularity they possessed, this precondition not being exclusive to philosophers but applying to almost all human beings, and the reason why not applying to some requiring no more than a little philosophical imagination to determine. Of the philosophers known I have known not only their works but also them as conscious beings: as a conscious being I have encountered them being conscious. However, many of those I have known, and this claim would be contested, no longer exist as conscious beings; they have died. Among those encountered who are no more are Thomas Jessop, Alan White, Stuart Hampshire, Richard Wollheim, Bernard Williams, Gerald Cohen, Timothy Sprigge, Sidney Morgenbesser, Anthony Palmer. In my life I think of these as lights that no longer shine, lights whose illuminations I attended to for whatever my reasons, and those reasons were many. But what my exposition and demonstrations are about is that being dead is the death of consciousness: the death of the body is the death of consciousness. So in my account dualism has no future whatsoever. And the reasons why these deaths entail each other is because of the physicality of consciousness. Death and consciousness are absolute limits like being and nothingness. Consciousness is physical and irreducible. There is nothing underlying which it is, nothing it can be reduced to, it is as we understand it, prima facie, it does not require translation into a more fundamental language. To appreciate what it is we have to enlarge, upgrade and so free-up notions of the physical, which for too long have been the prisoner of professional science. The problems with professional science is that it confines what’s physical by means of a metaphysical straightjacket. Science will not admit this though because it cannot entertain that it is so, and as a result everything has to be squeezed (reduced) into its confinements.
So, for these reasons, this work is about being conscious and being dead but without ever approaching what might be called a philosophy of death. This work is materialist and autonomist. Understanding it will be a difficult struggle but so will be writing it.
3. THERESE & TIAMAT
Rumpledsilkskin interviews Roger Taylor about his new book THERESE & TIAMAT.
(available from CreateSpace and Kindle)
Rumpledsilkskin: Often we co-author but with this new book am I right in thinking you have gone it alone?
Roger Taylor: Well, you are right to have phrased the question that way. You might think you would know whether or not you were involved, but the matter is not so simple. When you have an alter-ego, or, to refer to your case, when you have an avatar, it is not always clear which of you is speaking. What has to be said about my new book is that nowhere does it acknowledge you. However, the book contains two narrative voices, one the narrator, never referred to as such, and the other Scaramouche. The relationship between the two, mirrors in many ways our relationship, not that I am able to define precisely any of these ways.
Rumpledsilkskin: So there is a character, Scaramouche, and Scaramouche is Rumpledsilkskin?
Roger Taylor: Not so fast. To begin with, my new book does not contain characters in the authorial sense. There are names and persons, real, historical, as well as fictional, but they are more points of view than characters, although an attempt is made to draw a certain person from historical obscurity back into the circle of life. Scaramouche, on the other hand, is a personal, narrative voice but with a fantastical history within the events of the book. These things are not true of the other narrative voice, which is more deus ex machina and more abstract. This mirrors our relationship without either of us being in the book, but where I have inputted content you have inputted nothing, although if we were not related in the way we are then this book would not have the structure it does have.
Rumpledsilkskin: Not so simple. Not so fast. Very Roger Taylor, if I may say so. But we should move on. Your new book is called Therese & Tiamat. So what is it about? Can I ask you that?
Roger Taylor: Well, for now, let’s try to keep things simple and fast. Therese & Tiamat is about the unnoticed, their enemies, about their escape and their dreamtime.
Rumpledsilkskin: So who are the unnoticed?
Roger Taylor: Let me give you an example. The medieval serf. The Magna Carta is pure ideology. It has nothing to do with democracy. It is anti-Semitic and sexist. It concerns the class of what was called freemen, conveniently and wrongly equated with everyman in contemporary misinformation. Magna Carta details their property rights as against the king, detailing the taxes the rich should not have to pay. At most this class counted for 10% of the population. The rest of the population were villeins, the serfs or peasants. They were noticed, but only in the way deer and salmon were noticed. They were not celebrated in history or society, in this sense they were unnoticed, apart, that is, from religion, where the unnoticed were given the status of the chosen ones as long as they remained quiet and unnoticed, thus leaving the world to the self-chosen; freemen. The fairly recent emergence of social history tries to redress the balance but given the subject is the unnoticed the data is necessarily scant and its interpretation prone to wishful-thinking.
Rumpledsilkskin: If this is so how is it you have a subject to write about?
Roger Taylor: Exactly so. My book is fantasy, but like social history it plays with the available data. Its subject is not the medieval serf but a French woman, largely unnoticed, alive in the C18th, and a woman who, according to my book, was midwife to the French Revolution and its Terror.
Rumpledsilkskin: This woman is the Thérèse of your book?
Roger Taylor: Thérèse Levasseur is my uber-shrew. I bring her into the light from obscurity but when you blink she is gone again, as, in my book, Jean Seberg discovers. My thinking about her is wishful yet coincides with fact.
Rumpledsilkskin: This is the woman who lived with Jean Jacques Rousseau as his servant. A reputed dullard and, well, shrew?
Roger Taylor: She was scolding ditch-water in the eyes of the intelligentsia and so they were blind to a tributary leading back to the sea of Tiamat.
Rumpledsilkskin: And Tiamat is a Babylonian sea-dragon and goddess?
Roger Taylor: Pure myth. I connect her with the sentient whole at the centre of Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina. Life without purpose, anonymous existence, a refusal to nominate essence, a life of multiple orgasm. Life in the warm waters of the primeval sea before the urge to leave these waters and be human. Life before culture and civilisation, life as ecstatic dream. It is this Thérèse glimpses as she comes to terms with Rousseau’s betrayal of her and the trauma it introduces to her life. Her way back to Tiamat is the destruction of her society and she does this by leading Rousseau’s theoretical enterprise far beyond territory he would ever have had the courage or desire to cross alone. She is there at the birth of divine being.
Rumpledsilkskin: Well an avatar can live with that. She is also present at the death of divine being. Am I understanding you correctly?
Roger Taylor: She is the unseen muse in Rousseau’s life, she drives him mad and then she kills him. These things I have her do.
Rumpledsilkskin: It might seem the distance between Thérèse taking her honoured seat at the guillotine to watch heads being freed and Tiamat being bitten in two in a post-coital frenzy by the giant Marduk is a gap too far for any narrative to sustain, but in Thérèse & Tiamat there is historical linkage. Could you explain this?
Roger Taylor: There is an event in Sardis in 545 BC when a baker girl is sawn in two. This is a re-enactment, echoing dividing Tiamat from being whole. It is an attempt to conceal an orgasmic existence and to make life conform to rule, purpose and, wait for it, hard-work. The dialectic between these two becomes concentrated in an effigy of the girl, in two halves. History is then a struggle between keeping her apart or bringing her together. The struggle between the rule of law and chaos, the forces of order and Assassins, holy women and harlots. Through the centuries this links Lydia, Delphi, Constantinople, Venice and in culmination the Rousseau family in Geneva: from ancient history to the Enlightenment. It is Thérèse who deconstructs mythical linkage in favour of natural, tidal change. Of course there is no pre-existing essence but neither is freedom exercised in choosing essence. There is no essence, only existence, constant making and re-making, the flow of Eros and Thanatos. The division of woman is a fear of the dialectic. Marduk murders because he lusts, Thérèse kills because she loves. Thérèse & Tiamat asserts contradiction.
Rumpledsilkskin: Well thank you. I have read the book and found it deeply moving. It is also very funny. Perhaps it is the only book needed. I would say read it a million times.
4. NEWS OF 3 BOOKS
3 BOOKS associated with Rumpledsilkskin are now available from Kindle Books
Revised edition of ART an ENEMY of the PEOPLE by ROGER TAYLOR.
Revised edition of BEYOND ART by ROGER TAYLOR.
INVISIBLE CELLS and VANISHING MASSES by RUMPLEDSILKSKIN and ROGER TAYLOR.
For Rumpledsilkskin these books represent three of four steps towards a better theory of consciousness. The fourth step will be made available in 2017. The third step (INVISIBLE CELLS and VANISHING MASSES) is the most recent and the most substantial. It is a difficult, 250,000-word text. Its individual cells have the conceit of being prison sentences during which the prisoner battles with concepts of confinement and escape. A sense of the clamour of these battles is all Rumpledsilkskin feels able to offer as introduction to the whole. Rumpledsilkskin writes,
Part of my subject matter is to give serious treatment to the notion of “getting out of it”, another part concerns who is to get out. The inevitabilities of the poor are the factum, the starting point. What does Bear the surfboard-maker in Big Wednesday say as the surf heroes ride the unprecedented? “Oh! I’m just the garbage man.” Generally the poor are addressed to improve them, educate them, edify them, empower them, sensitise them, quiet them, control them. These are the stratagems for creating illusions of change. So it is argued, the rich are going to have to overcome hell of a hump to get into heaven, whereas queuing garbage men are the last made first. For this illusory privilege they are exhorted to love those who trespass against them. My work is firmly set in the notion of irreconcilable enemies. Being poor is to confront reality as problematic, something to defend oneself against, something to be escaped from. “Getting out of it” is defence and escape, and virtuality is one of the forms of “getting out of it”. Socially developed and controlled forms of virtuality are generally commodified, but commodified entertainment is bootlegged like booze and has its non-commodified forms like poteen and alpine eau de vie. And, of course the objects of art can be appropriated for any purpose whatsoever, just as art has appropriated the objects of not art as objects of art.
This philosophical journey begun a long time ago, whichever moment it was when it began, is now to be completed in these cells. There was no way for me to have envisaged this precise ending at the outset, despite a determination to arrive where I am. In fact at the beginning I did not even possess my present virtual existence. The destination is virtuality and class and underclass and escape. The possibilities of virtuality have multiplied since I started my kind of life. Those possibilities are part and parcel of the aspirations of self-consciousness and autonomy, and all these particles including the aspirations were all interwoven, even if unrecognised, in the embryonic vision. And so, my kind of life, my sentence, starts by revisiting and reflecting on various stopping points on the journey, as well as striking out across a vast territory still uncrossed. Following will not be easy, it will not be an instant thing, and the subject matter is irreducibly difficult. For escape none of this is necessary, but for the defence of escape it may well be, certainly nothing “out there” goes half far enough.
There is a collectiveness to vanishing, a shared conspiracy. This is a global, empirical scepticism. The alternative worlds that are turned to and created take both individual and collective forms. There is nothing solipsistic about mass disappearance. Moreover, vanishing is always double-edged. Spasmodically the masses reappear. Suddenly they are in the streets pointing. The excesses of the existing order do not go unnoticed. Or they reappear as heroes to fulfil their own fantasies. But the masses will never again sacrifice a generation or two for a future that never comes. The masses are playing the long game now. The masses are playing games. Fundamentalists of all persuasions desperately struggle to bring them back. For fundamentalists the life of the masses is not for playing games, it is instead austerity, struggle and suffering, but this is a megalomaniacal game fundamentalist can play only at the expense of the masses and the masses have found ways not to pay the price.
And the clamour includes this digressive prolegomenon to INVISIBLE CELLS AND VANISHING MASSES (Kindle Books).
The Norwegian would not be a problem if he kept the world he inhabits to himself, just as his private fantasy.
His actual behaviour is unintelligible if thought embedded in wholesome Scandinavian society. Instead though, there, like everywhere, is as tight as an asthmatic seizure. Screaming Nordic noir! Pus-filled globules are expelled from the congested mass as the social body struggles for its breath. It is asked “Why?” That is why, no longer inexplicable horror.
Murdering someone is thought clearly wrong but imagining murdering someone is less clear-cut. We might then say the Norwegian could imagine whatever he liked. This is close to the foundation of the argument in INVISIBLE CELLS AND THE VANISHING MASSES (ICVM). But nothing is clear-cut. In Elizabethan, political culture (Elizabeth I) treason laws forbade any subject to “compass” (imagine) the death of a monarch. Today militant Islam is just as eager to repress deviant daydreams. How though do you police these prescriptions? Not by means of any regard for the truth. Instead truth gives way to suspicion and policing suspicion requires a reign of terror, in which case imagining is left intangible, the threat to it accidental.
The Australian Outback is a harsh place, and how did the aborigine cope there? By means of great material ingenuity but also by means of dreamtime. Walkabout is inhabiting a fantasy landscape formed out of stories about the old woman and the old fella. There is an element of religious belief about this but it is more comic than zealous, more fall-about than solemn. Unless seduced by bourgeois élitism Abos repudiate high seriousness. Dreamtime is for having a good time. It allows you to eat your babies when you’re starving.
Communism is the utilitarian solution to perennial exploitation of the masses. It was once popular aspiration, now it sounds like “smoking is good for you”. ICVM will demonstrate the rationality of communism and will expose the repression of this truth. However, although communism’s moment could come again, its use in ICVM is as an exemplar or measure, rather like the kingdom of heaven is used to measure earthly reality, or like Rousseau’s general will measures existing power relations. Moreover, one reading of communism’s end-game is of virtual existence in a virtual universe, and what ICVM argues is not only is a strand of this always possible but now its possibility is extensive, yet it only exists by proxy in the form of mutant virtuality, which is virtual escape nonetheless but, therefore, dismissible by the media as criminal insanity. Maybe this is where everything is stuck for a virtual eternity.
If you think that working hard, rolling up your sleeves and doing the right thing is sick, if you think that all of morality and all of politics is sick, if you think all religion is sick, if you think the pursuit of knowledge and progress and economic growth is sick, if you think all of these are diseases of private property, and if you think virtual existence for its own sake is freedom or escape, then you must be criminal and insane. Musn’t you? This is not the prerogative of a starry few, as Nietzsche thought, but the mass nebulae of the celestial herd. This criminality and insanity is the commonsense repudiation of received sense, and things are so fixed that what repudiates received sense is axiomatically criminal and insane. These then are the norms and whatever challenges them. Hegemony creates this criminal insanity.
People are leaving the social space but media society does its utmost to prevent this. Every pretext is used. The economic crisis is used to preach the doctrine of all being in it together. The Olympics presents an idea of the world coming together. Every trick is used to secure a global, secure, benign community of consumers. Awaiting the aftermath of global bonding in the stadia is a giant landscape of corporate selling.
In opposition to received sense what we have is a dialectical materialist treatment of virtuality, and this generates both a critique of morality, politics, culture, religion, global capitalism, science, philosophical logic, theory of mind, celebrity, as well as a defence of the unnoticed, anonymity and dreamtime.
What is completely wrong with professional psychiatry’s analysis of mass killers, apart from the spurious idea that it (the analysis) is the first port of call in order to achieve understanding, is that it supposes everything is revealed by the set of lonely, angry fantasists. How imprecise is this? It is from this set also that critical theory emanates. “All the lonely people where do they all come from?” The antidote to conformist socialisation is what inflates the set beyond any of the uses of psychiatric explanation. As though the distinction between fantasy and reality is self-evident. Was monetarism fantasy or reality? Was Thatcher essentially lonely? Certainly she was angry. Oh, but she was a mass killer too! So the theory is correct then! But something has gone wrong. “Of course it has, don’t you know that everything is measured by received sense?” Well yes everything is but as every madman complains “You measure with electro-convulsive shock and how long is an electro-convulsive shock? Oh yes! However long you say it is.”
The vanishing masses and their invisible cells now have a startling analogue or image. The Dutch art-scientist, Jalila Essaidi in collaboration with Dr Abdoel El Ghalbzouri are progressing a new material. Some are calling it Rumpled Silk Skin. Human skin and spider silk have been synthesised by way of first adding spider genes to the genome of goats, then separating from goat’s milk its resulting silky content, and then spinning and weaving this content into a material on which human cells are grown. Why should you do this? Jalila was inspired by a tale about Genghis Khan’s horsemen riding into battle wearing silk vests as armour against enemy arrows. Jalila tried firing bullets at her Rumpled Silk Skin to find that although at full speed the bullets penetrated, at reduced speed they did not. She said, moving the idea even further, “…why bother with a vest: imagine replacing keratin, the protein responsible for the toughness of human skin, with this spider silk protein.”
Rumpledsilkskin’s idea (this web-sites avatar and co-author of the forthcoming ICVM) predates this armour of mass defence by some 40 years. Both ideas point to protection from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes!
FROM Marlyannova (Rumpledsilkskin’s web-girl/editor)
Modus Operandi for the site as a whole.
Digging: all theory and argument will be at least double dug, meaning there will be no substitute for hard-graft, heart-stimulation, and sound-beds in an old English style. Means of production will be spade striking the old rocks of logic, objectivity and truth value and barrowing off-site, all post-modernist, polystyrene packaging.
Weeding: meticulous hoeing, burrowing out, poisoning, flame gunning of civilised cultivations in their theoretical forms - dialectical and apocalyptic weeding! Rank and gross, tap and fibrous rooted, weed-binding possessors of nature, include: - Morality, Politics, Culture, Religion, Free- Market Apologia, State, Law, Education, Family. (Marx identified these weeds but was an inconsistent or lazy weeder.)
Fertilising: scattering images and fictions in the spirit of virtuality, dressing virtual soil in readiness for main-crop seemings.
Planting: intercropping, and irregular planting throughout four seasons, free from global warming but contributing to same.
Perennial Harvesting: Materialist Virtuality, As Ifness, Modernism (hybrid), Invisible Cells, Optical Density, Simulacra, Subterraneans, Indeterminism, Rational Schizophrenia, the Unnoticed. (Irregular allotment visitors take home emptier baskets, but emptier baskets are easier to carry. You pays no money and takes your choice.)
Composting: “Art an Enemy of the People”, “Beyond Art”, “Invisible Cells”, “Mme Rousseau”, Historical Materialism, Fact/Value distinction, Ideological and Commodity theories of Art. Sartre. Marx. Unamuno. Richard Jefferies. Jean Seberg. Genet. Patrick White. David Mercer. Viviane Forrester. Michael Heim. (A virtual future’s past.)
Pest Control: Dialectical spraying: - determinism (evolutionary, neuro-physiological, philosophical, A.I. nonsense), non-dialectical conceptual analysis, sluggish Heideggerian and Post-Modernist abstraction. Plus days of reckoning, Rumpledsilkskin confronts his critics.
Links: http://www.rumpledsilkskin.co.uk (Thérèse & Tiamat visibility)
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