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Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Wahl effect

Been attentive to the effect of Wahl style empiricism grounded on genuine multiplicity and separation on both a Levinasian and a Deleuzian metaphysics. (It is again my old suspicion that there is much to be explored in the intersection of those projects.) In both cases, clearly the issue of grounding has to be thought in terms that undermine both the ideas of autonomy (or agency) and heteronomy (or surrender of agency); the very idea of freedom-cum-responsibility is dissolved. Autonomy always has its bright moment - the moment of escape, of response, of breaking out. This is the traveling out, no Ithaca to return to, the D. H Lawrence kind of trip Deleuze praises - the act of evading (or of incomplete becoming). Autonomy in this sense is what provides the opening or the vulnerability that makes one transcend, be affected, be contaminated. Deleuze understands this in sort of Tardean terms: other societies present in the space between two social links whenever a social link is not strong enough to abolish an open space. Levinas understands this bright moment of autonomy in terms of the moment for a response which is clearly and paradoxically the moment of an opening to a heterodetermination. Levinas says that freedom leads to responsibility and therefore away from freedom (De l'existence à l'existant, 115). That is to say, autonomy is an open door to heteronomy. This is the bright moment: it ushers in heterodetermination. The dull moment of autonomy is what often follows from the effort to keep the opening of autonomy open. That is, when it becomes a project, a governing option: I decided I will follow this course of action no matter what; by doing that, I'm already, in Levinasian terminology, blocking any interference, any interruption, any demand for a response. In Deleuzian terms, it is when autonomy becomes a ruling body, and creates a fascism of the self. Then it becomes an heteronomy, it becomes a governing body that one is faithful to no matter what. Autonomy leads to heteronomy both in its bright and in its dull moment. This suggests that heteronomy itself has its bright and it dull moments.

I was dragged into a discussion about sexual orientation as an option. To be sure, if it were and option, a whole bunch of consequences would unfold and some of us will feel liberated from what they perceive as bodily (social, genetic, whatever) chains. But what would it mean for sexual orientation to be an option? Especially if we add to the picture the scenario where sexual preferences are more or less fixed and one cannot change them at one's leisure even if it was established by choice to begin with. How would that scenario look like? It would involve more autonomy. We wouldn't be demanded by desire and wouldn't have to respond to it, but rather we would be immune to the seduction of rest of the world, to be open to the cosmos by the very structure of desire. The lack of autonomy is the lack of immunity and the lack of immunity is what makes interruption possible. Without interruption one would just be on one own following a determination - like a Leibnizian monad following what was set when this world was chosen among infinite others or like a self-sufficient autodetermination that follows from the sexual option already chosen. To follow one's chosen sexual orientation would then look like following an order - to close the door, and to give up the bright moment of autonomy.

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