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The Double Economy: Disjunctive Reciprocity¡­ Knowledge at its Limits¡­





The Double Economy: Introduction




I first came across these issues as a potential problematic when a postgraduate student immersed in contemporary philosophy, what we then called, ¡®Critical Theory¡¯, that is, in Continental Philosophy, in Post-Structuralist as in Post-Foundationalist thought. However the direction of my research, then and after ruled out spending any sustained period of time thinking them through. This year the window finally arrived¡­ (aided by a change of institution and the arrival of our most recent, and apparently most disruptive, form of plague, the advent of COVID 19).


One thing that had always bothered me were the similarities in the divisions riding across human knowledge, an agon of incommensurables that seemed to appear in each and every level of human cultural activity. Apparently, no one had yet thought to put together the relevant data from apparently disparate levels of human practice¡­ What seemed to be lacking was a theory of ¡®identity exchange¡¯ which, acting as a supplement to the notion of ¡®subjectivity¡¯ in the human sciences, would provide the ¡®missing link¡¯ between the ¡®hard sciences¡¯ and the realms of art and thought. The idea would be to show the parallels existing between the different zones or levels of human culture: from our most intimate interiority, our subjectivity as experience, through key categories in our thought and language use, to our exteriority (the extension of our species onto our environment, the Object of our collective Subject), particularly as found in our arts and sciences (Deleuze might have said a concept to create a plane of immanence - in this case a fractured concept for a fractured immanence¡­ a diremption). For any ¡®unity¡¯ could only be that of the persistent, even irruptive, presence of an unbridgeable chasm; an invisible but ever-present barrier operating at the heart of the human condition, constituting our very subjectivity ¨C even defining what it is to be ¡®human¡¯.


For this w/hole is a human product: ¡®dividing¡¯ even as it ¡®unites¡¯¡­



Much of what follows will explore ¡®the self¡¯ from within, its diremptions, our blind spots, the sense of when thinking from one point of view, we are denied the other¡­ and vice versa. The divisions of the self as we actually experience them. The number and relationship of these parts will be one major topic. Their incommensurability, the other. How these gaps may be bridged, in the fiction of belief systems and in the practices of daily life will also be of concern.


However, this study is not another version of the Romantic, ¡®murder to dissect¡¯ versus ¡®organic unity¡¯; although it must at times seem like this, very Romantic, recognition of the diremption as the parting of the ways of religion and science (or the increasingly distinguishable worlds of ¡®Big Subject¡¯ and ¡®Big Object¡¯). In fact, reason and religion, had parted company a long time ago, as attested by, what is often called, the debate between ¡®Athens and Rome¡¯. In this later, the distinction between the individual mind, the subject of reason, and institutional or collective force or objectivity, is already clear ¨C as are its opponents. Romanticism may not be the last great attempt to glue together that which has become un-fastened by Modernity, as well as what has been existentially left un-fastened; but as a lasting influence on the present, on our very (post) modern, Neo-romantic ideologies and repeat-performance populist politics; its lineage and the debt owed is still clear (including an elitism that infests ¡®modernism¡¯ far more than its adherents would wish to admit). The historiography of a single or ¡®unified manifold¡¯, of ¡®making One¡¯, does not begin with the Romantics (any more than does ¡®Nature First¡¯ philosophy), but the genealogy of its urgent reassertion in the face of repeated assaults by science (and the absence of a State guarantee or monopoly) would argue for a continuity from then into the present. 


Rather, we ask the question: why the near pathological drive to unify that which analysis clearly indicates is either separate or complementary (or both), and why we do not simply distinguish the differences in question as fundamental, constitutive, undecidable or in-eliminable? Leaving the description of the world, including the social world or ¡®Culture¡¯, as the following of the diremption down to its particular or local constitutive dyad or aporia and leaving all description of the remainder as the rhetoric or genealogy or history (or historiography) of the heroic or futile attempts at bridge building (as with the romantic reaction mentioned above). Reminding us that all previous religions and ideologies have been (or have succumbed to) the Quest for the Eternal Bridge, of the yoking together of disparate elements, of different, discrete parts, and of the resultant transfer of meaning¡­ and if this transfer is not the definition of rhetoric, of figure or of symbol, then I don¡¯t know what is¡­ Such systems and beliefs (including ¡®Natural Law¡¯ descriptions) and the rituals that support them, are better described by the terms associated with figurative language: the yoking together of contradictory positions for dramatic effect, and, interestingly, the terms are many: paradox, dilemma, conundrum, anti-theses, comparatio (also in the case of a comparative sense with conjoining: metalepsis, chiasmus, antimetabole, epanalepsis, resumptio, paranomasia, agnominato, allusion, syllepsis, conceptio ¨C and other tropes of repetition). However, in this case to make meaning¡­ is to make meaning for ideological ¡®wholeness¡¯, community, identity, sanity (the act of ¡®bringing together¡¯; the rhetoric of ritual ¨C so perhaps most apposite term from classical rhetoric would be synoeciosis or contrapositium, what we usually refer to as oxymoron or the uniting of incompatibles or complementaries). Of course, the diremption itself may be pictured in just these terms: but that is the result of the fear of losing a comforting model of the world, the consolation of the knowledge of ¡®First and Last¡¯ things, the assertion of things that one cannot possibly ¡®know¡¯ and so of outraged denial, the view from a ¡®restricted economy¡¯, the desire for the uncomfortable general view to ¡®just go away¡¯, and finally the lack of sufficient examination of the evidence ¨C subjective or objective¡­.



Whilst often ¡®pluming the depths¡¯ (intuition, logic, rhetoric, the means of expression, the basic elements of experience and the basic elements of connection making), we will also, from time to time, ¡®come up for air¡¯ to examine aspects of the manifest practices of the diremption in our culture, the diremption as everyday geology (what I have called ¡®the four zones¡¯, the physical and human sciences, the arts and philosophical thought). Indeed, micro and macro levels, the individual and social, the world in the self and the self in other worlds, both the testament of experience and the record of cultural institutions (dare I say, ¡®subjective¡¯ and ¡®objective¡¯¡­) both are represented; indeed, are complementary. And their relationship also is complementary in time or (to put it another way) oscillating.


We are all used to using an unsteady marriage of subjective and objective, (or ¡®in¡¯ and ¡®out¡¯) modes of thought; in reviews, for instance, descriptive facts (objective) climax in evaluation (subjective). Taken further these two moments are refined in the arts as the disciplines of Poetics, and Aesthetics¡­ (still unbridgeable and yet a divide crossed continually). For literally every decision we make is marked by a movement between these two un-unifiable, divided realms, we jump them, jump between them, continuously¡­ With comparison (another obvious and daily-employed example), an operation essential for the making of rounded knowledge, to avoid narrow one-sidedness, we also must move between ¡®in¡¯ and ¡®out¡¯; between the internal view or experience of an object, art work, phenomena or event, and a comparison with other events or objects, art works or art genres considered cogent, relevant¡­ That is, we use both sides of the subject/object diremption ¨C without which no broad-based knowledge (¡®who know England, who only England know?¡¯) is possible. In the labour of comparison, for example, we switch our point of view from one ¡®angle¡¯ to another, from one side to another, having ¡®got inside of¡¯ both points of view (though more precisely we might say they have got inside of us¡­), then to an external over-view of the two (although we may of course simply slide between the two as internal points of view¡­ but this also provokes comparison)¡­ So we move from ¡®in¡¯ to ¡®out¡¯, and from a subjective to an objective manner of approach¡­


This study, therefore, argues for the extended or general diremption thesis: Is all culture marked by the diremption¡­ is all culture¡­ dirempt? Rhetorically I might ask: Can you imagine something that is not at once the yoking of subject and object, or our inside and outside, our ¡®inner¡¯ self and our ¡®outer¡¯ world of perception¡­ with the later extending into an-other (point of view) or an object (or even, with others, an ¡®objective¡¯) point of view?


Indeed, the model that will be suggested as most suitable for ¡®the self¡¯, or, perhaps better, ¡®self-awareness¡¯, in its relation to the subject/object or mind/matter, mental/material divide, needs must involve some manner of alternation or oscillation. This model will be suggested after due consideration to the role of contiguity and exchange (as exchange over a membrane or veil, ¡®the veil of the other¡¯) as offering the best (¡®least faulty¡¯) description of how we experience the world ¨C as well as how we constitute our identity. An exchange which is also a uni-directional process, a process of ¡®disjunctive reciprocity¡¯, as consciously and unconsciously pursued in ritual; itself a mirror of human and of all organic life as the process of transformation of matter into body and waste¡­ but also into body and mind - which includes the ¡®cure¡¯ for individual and social entropy just as the physical world requires repair and replacement and reproduction. This model, in its alternation between two broad modes of being, is also the result of the self-same experience of the ¡®twin halves¡¯ of the four zones of human culture (also temporal, irreversible ¨C so subject, like the subject itself, to entropy). This is the ¡®double economy¡¯, now writ large, in its functioning in the world: as we focus now on one aspect of physics, now on that; now on one aspect of the commodity, now on that; now on one side of decision making, now on the other; now on art as object, and now on art as subjective reading; now on world as object of fact (description, stasis), now as world as subject to value judgement (agency, action, change). Now on one side (this), now on the other (that): just as we move between present and past (and future), between the sense of ¡®-ing¡¯, on on-going, un-finishing experience and its others; an ever-present experience which does not allow us to render ¡®the Eternal Present¡¯ as just another picture of recorded or ¡®-ed¡¯ experience, memory as other (which anyway is distinguished by being ¡®semi-present¡¯ in the present). The (experiencing of the) Eternal Present is not called up from the past, nor projected forwards, but is something radically other, radically, now, the ¡®now moment¡¯¡­ but not a finished moment, rather an un-finishing moment¡­ an on-going synthesis of perception and memory which allows us to respond rapidly to our environment. The ¡®mode of experience¡¯ in which (within which) we call up the past, imagine the future, recognise things and people we had previously seen (and not seen), and objects and others we had, at some stage, learnt to call by a given name - furthermore to read accounts of other¡¯s knowledge and experience, and pursue yet older knowledge and history, the collective memory of our species, in books and their technological extensions¡­ the frame in which all these occur. So (we are) always oscillating, alternating, exchanging between these two modes¡­ one present, the other co-present or semi-present. On an unending personal basis, and in the unending process of social life and the production of knowledge, as we now judge which description of the world is more useful, ponder how to understand social interaction and exchange or decide what to buy, regard a painting or play, or just reflect on what we are¡­ A double oscillation impossible to avoid¡­ existence as a double ¡®action at a distance¡¯¡­ an oscillation present in the self¡­ and uncannily repeated in the mirror of our culture at large.



Within what follows a certain amount of repetition has been necessary to offset the density of the argument, a running reminder of the story so far, as it were; for both of which, unavoidable and very complementary errors, I apologise in advance.




Beijing, 2020








Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2020