Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Killing Joke




There is something deeply funny about Meillasoux's framing of Mallarme's encoding of the secret number vis a vis 'The Number and the Siren' as a sacrifice. In a flash we have conflated the whole dark history of sympathetic magic with a flick of the wrist as in the throw of the dice, and it is.. Much of what was accomplished in magic, religious dogma, and is still accomplished today by politics, and science as well sometimes, is that the adjunct of one series, or narrative, can be folded or fitted into another, or can branch obliquely by sense as in oracular divination. And in a possible sense, this is the secret meaning of the cut-ups, or at least a kind of transparent talking about narrativity which hadn't always been possible, something like the cuts in Godard's À bout de souffle whereby the back of Jean Seberg's head is replaced with another view of the back of Jean Seberg's head, though at this late date we've got other examples from the historical avant-garde, and certain para-gardes.. There was an 18th century writer for example who played with cut-ups.. (probably old lord Monboddo hisself with his monkey tail!)

 But why does Meillasoux insist that an undeciphered cryptogram, or crypto-ethos, really, is a 'sacrifice'.. And actually he claims it is a sacrifice squared: firstly in the sacrifice of the meaning of the work, and then the sacrifice that no one would ever know that Mallarme' sacrificed the meaning of the work.. Is keeping the punch-line of a joke secret? Isn't it fundamental to the functioning of the joke? Is is really that the poem offers us a 'nihilist vision of Christ's passion', or is it something actually more discomfiting and complex? The way that Meillasoux answers this question, is, in the first place, to diffuse the couching of the sacrifice as a joke, or, more succinctly, he proffers to us the way it should be read, the poem as a carnal and spiritual sacrifice which remaining undeciphered would bury the beauty of his gesture -"and which, were it to be deciphered in malevolent and superficial manner, could forever discredit his 'spiritual body' -the Mallarme' of posterity, he who would henceforth live in our memory'.

But all of this, it seems to me, is already a sleight of hand by Meillasoux, or something which should be seen as a superficial and malevolent reading of what semiosis really is, what semiosis means, which is ostensibly the goal of philosophy, and which may in fact be fulfilled by Meillasoux, although in a cryptic manner(ism). It doesn't take much looking to find an analog of the same simplistic vision of syntaxis, or in laymen's terms, the combined carnal and spiritual effects of thoughts and actions upon history. In Frank Capra's 1947 It's a Wonderful Life, we find a kind of compressed, short-hand metaphor for a window into what it means to be involved in computational complexity, which in a sense is what the whole project of contingency based philosophy is mulling over of late.. And if this isn't technical enough, then proceed, please, with the reading of this as malevolent and superficial.

The rub is this, every single moment is part of a calculation with a specific outcome, a specific carnal and spiritual outcome, "a number", and so, to posit a specific crypto-analysand as privileged takes on the character of a sophist's joke, and for Meillasoux to posit the joke, or the production of an instance of Socratic irony raised to poetic gesture, as itself a kind of crypto-philosophical encryption whereby, in the manner of the lapwing, which is also an old poetics trope, the eye is led away from the nest of eggs (the reality principle, generative metaphysics? etc.) And so, what we in fact have here, is an intransparency of philosophy, under the aegis of contingency, and happy accidents, pretending a narrativity of transparency to engender another intransparency, namely, the privileged and special case divinity of the Mallarmean gesture, which in fact is every gesture when viewed from the vista of 'the infinite series', which Meillasoux so delightfully brings up again and again under the never explained rubric of 'infinite chance', which is more like a Medusan monster which can only be viewed indirectly. Every hesitation in thought and action is an oracular precedent for every happy and unhappy accident as well as accomplishment presiding in our so-called future. 

What I do appreciate tho, is the opportunity to see Mallarme's gesture, so that I can find within it, the "true symbolism" it supposes, namely that the 707 is in fact closer to a numeric version of the hand-gesture sometimes called 'cornudo' meaning horned, which comes closer to emblematizing the computationalist nature of our semiotic pluroma, but may also be further broken down into what might be close to what Meillasoux himself wants us to see, namely, 'the nude heart' (cœur-nudo) of Mallarme', or the spiritual nudeness of ourselves, as in 'The Emperor Wears No Clothes' which is also instructive as per, the other meaning of the cornudo, as being the sign of the cuckold:

 Andersen's tale is based on a story from the Libro de los ejemplos (or El Conde Lucanor, 1335), a medieval Spanish collection of fifty-one cautionary tales with various sources such as Aesop and other classical writers and Persian folktales, by Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena (1282–1348). Andersen did not know the Spanish original but read the tale in a German translation titled "So ist der Lauf der Welt". In the source tale, a king is hoodwinked by weavers who claim to make a suit of clothes invisible to any man not the son of his presumed father; whereas Andersen altered the source tale to direct the focus on courtly pride and intellectual vanity rather than adulterous paternity. 

 Only here we must presume, or must not presume to know who or which or what exactly is the king, and who, the weavers.. We are all hoodwinked by 'the weaving' and we're all a part of the hoodwinking, and being hoodwinked as well. The sacrifice (joke), in other words is "universal", and is a part of the general reliance by our species on language itself, its specific faults, gaps, and conscious and unconscious opacities.. One is at lengths not to think of every being on the planet as ostensibly, a 'roll of the dice', (and troll of the dyes) and the planet itself as the consequence, or 'divine' outcome, which isn't exactly nihilism, but it also isn't exactly not nihilism, which is sort of the point of the exercise, or exorcism, or exoschism (ala cornudo), the body of semiotics itself, an organ(ism), and we, its life blood.

And so, to complete this, and to show just how insidiously slippery (contingent) language can be, What would the meaning be of something which is 'deeply funny'? Is there a profundity which exists on the inside of being human which could be rendered as comic, or is profound comedy itself a projection of an outside, from the inside? This simple portrait is part of the profoundly misleading character of language itself. Language must always move outside to be seen and understood 'as language'.. If it does not, it remains, nascent, like a nest of eggs, brittle, about to be born, but not yet.