Said’s Orientalism I

Orientalism denotes the set of complex representational techniques, apparatuses and  institutions that configure the interactions the West, Occident, has with the East, Orient. In one sense, it is something exotic, other, and inferior against which the Occident defines itself, producing the supposed binary of civilizations. Then, there is a second mode of orientalism, that is the academic sense of one being an orientalist, and as such practices orientalism.  Of course there was, and is, a relation between the perverse civilizational mode of orientalism and academic orientalism, though it is usually less explicit, now. There also is not a necessary relation; all civilizational orientalism, as far as I can, will be dreadful. However, I can imagine someone in an oriental studies department not perpetuating civilization orientalism. Though, it is telling that there are many programs that have retained the label “oriental”. The scholarly institutions that house orientalists had/do join with bureaucratic and political institutions–colonial outposts and diplomatic cores, and with cultural phenomena–travel writings, to form a network of knowledge, discourses, and institutions that otherize(d),  subject(ed), and interpolate(d) the Orient. 

Orientalism develops out of a familiarity. There is no need to configure a discourse of the obscure tribe across the world, but there will be greater impulse to establish one regarding a civilization that one is in close contact with via commerce and colonialism. So, it is not like orientalism was born out of pure fabrication, or a sort of possible worlds imagination; however, it was allowed to develop due to passivity. Perhaps this is but a cultural translation of realism, i.e., if one cannot exercise agency in the world, they are stripped of the power to define themselves. Of course, if there is an other, they will be awarded negative attributes, so the Orient becomes a site of these anti-normative propensities of Occidental civilization, The Lustful Turk, or Ivan Karamazov describing a cultural practice where Turks enjoy torturing children; the Orient becomes over-sexed and sadistic, which then definitionally would mean the Occident cannot be. Thus, there is also a psychoanalytic dimension to orientalism, the Orient as id.

Said then goes on to deconstruct the distinction between political knowledge and cultural knowledge, i.e., culture is politics and vice-versa. The location of the writer, in terms of geography, class, ethnicity et al., the factors that produce one’s subjectivity, all of which are politically-laden , politicize the matter. On a different level, the demand of the political moment often politicizes the ostensible apolitical dimensions of a topic. For example, today, the tense relationship with Iran would politicize the work of the ancient Persianist. It does not automatically turn one into Ann Lambton, but if we take orientalism to be a civilizational discourse then the long history is important. There is an interesting aporia though, is orientalism in the service of empire, or is empire in the service of orientalism? Probably both. But, the cultural currents of orientalism did/do legitimate political orientalism; perhaps it would be right to say that political orientalism instantiates the cultural dimension and transmits an epistemology to reinforce the process.

Said then compacts the entire complex into a single, punishingly long quote:

 It is rather a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts; it is an elaboration not only of a basic geographical distinction (the world is made up of two unequal halves, Orient and Occident) but also of a whole series of “interests” which, by such means as scholarly discovery, philological reconstruction, psychological analysis, landscape and sociological description, it not only creates but also maintains; it is, rather than expresses, a certain will or intention to understand, in some cases to control, manipulate, even to incorporate, what is a manifestly different (or alternative and novel) world; it is, above all, a discourse that is by no means in direct, corresponding relationship with political power in the raw, but rather is produced and exists in an uneven exchange with various kinds of power, shaped to a degree by the exchange with power political (as with a colonial or imperial establishment), power intellectual (as with reigning sciences like comparative linguistics or anatomy, or any of the modern policy sciences), power cultural (as with orthodoxies and canons of taste, texts, values), power moral (as with ideas about what “we” do and what “they” cannot do or understand as “we” do). (Said 12).

This will be elaborated on later in the book, but I think we have already enumerated a more general account of these thoughts.

Lastly, it is important to note that oriental discourses reflect more on the Occident, and elucidate occidental structures of knowledge and politics, than it does about the Orient. I will write more about this after we finish this text; however, briefly, the discourse around the Arab SPRING was largely characterized by Hegelian overtunes. “Spring” westernizes the Orient, likening the event to the 1848 liberal revolutions, or the Prague Spring.  This has lead to the arming of terrorist rebels to bring about democracy, as well as the committing of, and support of egregious human rights violations in the service of promoting human rights, which is only comprehensible if you interpret any promising development in the Orient as proto-Occidental, which materializes this transformation within the ontology of a universal historical process. What do we have to show for this? Libya. Libya is now the Hobbesian state of nature, something about hell and good intentions.  But, that is sufficient for now. However, this text is vital to understanding contemporary international relations.

Hegel’s Philosophy of History II

On Realization

As a preliminary, please forgive me for any instance in which an implication is not fully explicated. These are only brief thoughts as I read, usually taking around 90 minutes time. The idea is to read what is presented from each of the works supplied, and then after finishing each section, to thoroughly review the material, analyze it, and consolidate it into a single chapter; and then, after finishing all of the works, to review everything again, discern Hegel’s influences and context, and conjoin each section into a coherent narrative. After which, we shall have material for a course on Hegel, or a small book-like work. So, again, this writing is provisional, and carries a reprehensible, and indefensible, prematurity. With that said, let us continue our study.

That the destination of reason, itself, is related to the world raises the issue of what this end, of the world, will be. Of course, we have already encountered the notion that items are purposive. Reason has a reason, yes. This impinges on the world; i.e., reason has a being-in-the-world—now this is too much indeed. Simply, the purposive nature of reason, given that reason is constitutive of the world, means that the world has a purposive nature, meaning that the world, too, has an end.

He writes, “Our subject, world history, occurs in the field of the spirit”(11). He notes the duality of the world, physical and psychical, but that spirit is primary. So, that world history is spirit, and that the world is physical and psychical, means that history is the spirit’s playground. For Hegel, spirit is consciousness and its object–Janus-reason. It is the subject and object; perhaps, this is a forerunner to Foucault’s empirico-transcendental. So, then, history is the process of the spirit “working out” the knowledge in itself. And, it is consistent because we had said that speculative philosophy, which may only concern such an entity, is self-contained. 

Now, we reach Hegel’s orientalism. “The Orientals do not know that the spirit is free in itself, or that man is free in himself”. He says they only know that the one is free, the one being despotic (Hegel-Wittfogel?). So, Hegel is definitely a disappointing figure that has played a role in making the Arabs an ontologically oppression loving population. The Greeks and Romans made minor improvements, knowing that some are free, but not all as they had retained slavery; hence, he describes this Greeco-Roman freedom as accidental. So, one notices that all is metaphysical for Hegel, as accidental properties are often distinguished from that which is necessary.

The major development came in the Germanic nations via Christianity, which permitted man himself to be free, though this was in spirit’s interior, and the exteriorization was harder to come by. Personally, I do not think the history of the German disposition reveals this, but I can see how this is coherent in terms of the dominant strands in German philosophy. However, here we are only seeking to understand Hegel. There is an ideational production of nascent freedoms, which introduces a potentiality for further progress, i.e., the ability for the secular state to develop and embody  freedom—which is the course of history for Hegel. An interesting thought emerges, does teleological mean deterministic? If man is reasonable, i.e., it is the nature of all men, how are there such varied notions and interjections of possibility, especially in terms of geography? Is Hegel underselling materiality? Probably (see Marx).

To clarify, spirit is subject and object in that it makes history(S), and attempts to realize itself in the world , but also evaluates the extent to which the external world (O), which will necessarily house reason to an extent (making reason in the world), coincides with its nature. 

The “drama” of history displays many self-interested, particularized acts that have some end in reason. Things like loving one’s family, or one’s country “which is insignificant in the world and in relation to the world’s general end”(13). This may sound bad, and Hegel is definitely Eurocentrist and racist, but he makes an important point on the scope and evaluation of world history. We look in history and see a large atrocity exhibition before us. So, what, and for whom, is the end of history , foregoing any (derisively put) “sentimental contemplation”.  History operates to realize reason. Reason as an abstraction is only half real and must be realized, actualized, to be completely real. This means that reason, the motive force, which is given energy by passion and desire, is something ideational, and is what is ultimately real, but must be actualized to be real; however, all is still grounded in reason as something mentalistic; this is Hegel’s idealism. How this comes about is through human activity. Human activity, while guided by passions and desires, is guided by reason, because humans have reason as their essence. So, history is the progression of human activity that realizes reason in the world, in correspondence to man’s own realization of his reasonable essence, which he is compelled to do; hence, progress, is the gradual adding to the repository of enacted reason that had come before. Relatedly, how the end of reason is energized by passion and that it is normative when passion and desire is oriented to reason, the state is normative when it realizes, and is motivated by the interests of the citizenry. This is a type of parallel syntax, but here we will not unravel the chain of logic that constitutes the semantic relation. But, it takes states time to become conscious of what is in its interest. This is important. What is normative can be divorced from intentionality. What is reasonable may lay dormant in the mind, held in reserve to be made conscious. It is interesting to map this out. Reason can have an existence independent of consciousness in the sense that one can think and act unreasonably, indicating reason then exists as some unit of potential energy. However, reason supervenes on ,and is in a one-to-one structural relation with, the mind.

The specifics, a well defined notion of what it means to realize spirit in the world, or even the conscious realization to do so, has to be cultivated, as “world history does not begin with some such conscious purpose or end…The history of the world starts with its general end, namely to satisfy the desire of the spirit to conceive itself , only by itself, that is to say as nature; it is the innermost and unconscious drive, and the whole business of world history is the work of bringing it into consciousness”(16). Neither the content, or vague realization, of realizing spirit, begins consciously, but it is always at work. Men act for particular reasons of desire and passion, but the acts are implicated in world history in so far as they comport with , or extend reason’s reign, which can be affirmed consciously or unconsciously. The rest of the section concerns the individual, which we have already discussed in relation to man’s own fulfillment in actualizing reason, but also in our prior determination that freedom is the realization of essence, which means man’s freedom is behaving reasonably. This section was particularly dense. We shall have to deal with the totality of implications in a future endeavor. Let us conclude here. Thanks for reading, friends.

Brief Remarks on Syria

Brief Remarks on Syria

I do not wish to deliberate too long on this issue, as it is apparent, but its full explication would require a book. In the recent democratic debate, Syria was quite a lively issue, indeed. While there were minor variations, it was made entirely clear that the democratic establishment supports forever wars, except Tulsi Gabbard, whom the establishment figures and media have described as a Russian asset. It is entirely unsurprising, then, that no one had answered her critique that the United States and its allies had funded terrorists. However, there was disagreement over if the operations were oriented towards regime change. It appears that everyone had forgotten Obama’s three words : “Assad must go”.

Additionally, the American security apparatus has admitted that the Syrian intervention was a regime change operation, and that they would support anyone who would support this aim, including (especially) terrorists. An internal Defense Intelligence Agency memo (which can easily be found) states the following:

THE SALAFIST, THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA”. 

I, for one, do not see any moderate rebels here. This is not to say there were none, but to say that they were never a viable option as a vehicle for exacting regime change. The support for/from terrorists to execute regime change is confirmed in the next sections:

AQI SUPPORTED THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION FROM THE BEGINNING”. This could explain the fact that though the composition of the FSA has always been elusive, it had been certainly largely constituted of extremists.

Did we, then, support the extremists? Well, the report also states:

THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY SUPPORT THE OPPOSITION; WHILE RUSSIA, CHINA, AND IRAN SUPPORT THE REGIME”. 

Also, notice the odd, neo-Cold War framing.

So, to recap, the extremists were the heart of the insurgency, AQI supported them, and we supported the opposition. It seems, then, rational to say that not only America, but also its allies comprised a transnational network of terrorist financing and support. Again, one does not need to perform any investigative reporting to know this, as all of the evidence is readily available. It is almost funny to see the outrage over the Turkey-backed militias being maneuvered against the Kurds (who have faced serious allegations of ethnic cleansing) drawing Western condemnation, but these were the same factions the West had supported.

One should not even have to say this, as it is obvious and besides the point, but of course I do not like Assad. And, it is disappointing that the anti-war left, figures I like, like Blumenthal, Norton, etc ., are not more critical of Assad, if not only on account of his destructive, patrimonial neoliberal projects. The horizon of policy ought to be suffering, and acts that enhance suffering are not the correct policies. The Syrian intervention greatly enhanced the suffering of the Syrian people, not just in terms of violence, but also in terms of sanctions,  and the disruptions of the oil supply and wheat production. It is not a surprise that there have been pro-Assad celebrations in Syria, not because of his non-existent lack of cruelty, but because he is preferable to a civil war. Would Sisi not have come down with similar extreme repression if there was a foreign backed, armed uprising in Egypt, and of course this it to forego the vital identitarian dimensions of the armed insurgency. Why is there essentially an embargo on Venezuela but not Egypt? It is obvious “humanitarian” interventions (armed or not) are applied inconsistently. So, again, it is very apparent that this was a regime change war, executed through extremists, that resulted in absolute calamity for the Syrian people.

These sorts of perverse dynamics have been pointed out before, and are increasingly pointed out by a growing community of independent media outlets and analysts. However, there is something more problematic that no one seems to have picked up on. This is just a sort of nascent thread, something thrown out too hopefully be developed later, as I do not wish to delve into such complexities right now. Beto essentially said, in the debate, that we must keep our word to our allies because if not, then we would have to send our own soldiers. There are no principles here; one must only maintain alliances in order to use people from poor nations as pawns. This is absolutely vile! To draw out the ramifications of this malice, would require nothing less than the entire reexamination of imperialism, colonialism, its corollary orientalism and ethnic parallels. The establishment sometimes lets out these Freudian slips, the unconscious of American foreign policy making, and one should be keen to collect these rare truth telling moments. 

These have only been obvious, cursory, remarks, as the Syrian situation is complex as it is nightmarish. However, as the war has begun to come to an end, one can begin going back and discerning how we got here, which is I project I shall undertake. 

http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

Hegel’s Philosophy of History I

It is time to get serious about this blog. I will now be on a veritable mission to provide timely, critical, analysis of the difficult and vital works of the human intellect. I hope I am providing a service to you, and I hope you, dear reader, shall support me in return. Let us begin, then. Also, I sincerely apologize for any errors in writing, as I wrote this quickly after seeing a conservative named “Chuck Woolery” completely fumble his attempt to critique Hegel, writing on twitter that Hegel was both the cause of fascism and communism. This is mind boggling stuff.

It appears to be a signifier of general intellectual competence that one has a provisional idea of Hegel. Focault had written in the preface to Anti-Oedipus: “During the years 1945-1965 there was a certain way of thinking correctly, a certain style of political discourse, a certain ethics of the intellectual. One had to be on familiar terms with Marx, not let one’s dreams stray too far from Freud”. A similar thing may be said of Hegel today. Zizek (my word processor will not let me add accents), and the rest of the European psychoanalysts have located perhaps the most preoccupying figure in critical theory, Lacan, within a Hegelian matrix (see The Absolute Master, along with the wealth of writings and lectures in which Zizek engages Hegel). Of course, if Hegel is to be taken seriously, thought is realized in practice, and this is demonstrated in Lacan’s fascination with the man who actually lived as if history was over, Kojeve (and this is also attested to by one of the foremost advocates of centrist liberal democracy, Fukuyama), who is also active in Zizek; so, Hegel, as it concerns intellectuals, is still both directly and indirectly in vogue. I do not only mean in terms of thought, explicit and implicit, but I think the status quo defender also unconsciously accepts that we have realized the end of history, and as such they view any alteration in political activity as regressive. However, the interest, it appears, goes further regarding the contemporary interest in Hegel. One cannot go long, while perusing contemporary political analysis, without coming across some variation of the crisis of liberal democracy. Its referent is at times the United States, at other times it is either Poland, Italy, Britain, Hungary, the Easter region of Germany, etc. The Anglo-European world appears to be at something of a world historical juncture. The centrists had won out in Germany, but things appear more grim elsewhere; furthermore, there are interesting fusions of political ideologies taking place. I have seen it three times today, the Polish Law and Justice party being described as right-wing in its identitarian concerns, but left in its socioeconomic policies. Come to think, all of these disruptions in a post-historical world. On one level there is a malaise that is consistent with a post-Cold War arena, in which we have reached the end, and thus new ideas are infelicitous; however, there is an agitation that exists as if to say, something had been botched or missed along the way, and as such one must revert to the 1920’s and 1930’s era fascistic discourse. Is it there, where one shall find answers? In communism? Is it in the old polity of the city-state, or is it in Dante’s temporal monarchy?  The answer is unknown for now, or in Hegelian spirit, our concept is in (that is, at least in appearance) disharmony with the idea. But it is clear, there is much at stake, and there is no philosopher for whom more is at stake than Hegel, as what is on the line is nothing less than the entire world. With such a background, we shall venture into Hegel’s Philosophy of History. Or, rather, I should write “Philosophy of History” as we shall be concerned with a condensed version within the compendium The Philosophy of Hegel as it was compiled by the great intellectual Carl J. Freidrich. Do not worry, as we shall have much to concern ourselves with.

Enough with the preliminaries; let us commence with the introduction, section one. Hegel has embraced the maxim that man is rational, and as such, all is thought. All modes of cognition are thoughts, i.e., “feeling, knowledge, and insight, desire, and will” (3). This has been vindicated in contemporary neuroscience, as Sam Harris has even attested to this in a discussion with Ben Shapiro, which may demonstrate Hegel’s omnipresence. Hegel then proceeds to point out a pragmatic prejudice, that one seems to believe that thought is anchored in being, or is constrained in actuality or receptive felicity by the material networks from which it emerges. However, philosophy is unconstrained and liberates history in its interactions with it; Hegel writes “thus treating history as material, not leaving it as it is but arranging it according to its thoughts; that is, it[philosophy] constructs a history a priori”(3). It is pointed out that history is conducted with an eye towards materiality, which is still an issue in historiography today, though history of ideas and intellectual history are certainly fashionable and supremely instructive.

The only prejudice philosophical discourse brings is that “reason rules the world”(4). That world history occurs in the world, and is concerned with the process of world formation, it too, as an analytic matter, is at the mercy of reason. Here is where Hegel appears to be distinctive. Reason is not just a human mental faculty, or a tool of interpretation, apprehending existing material, but it is “that through which and in which all actuality has its being and existence”(4). Then, we must reverse the aforementioned dichotomy; reason is not grounded in materiality, but all things are grounded in reason; reason is a creative power. Not only, then, is reason constitutive of the world in the interpretative foreground of intelligibility and discourse, but it is integral to what is being interpreted as well! If this is not humanistic, then I do not know what is. One might wonder from whence reason comes. Well, for Hegel, it is perfectly self-contained, needing nothing out of which to fashion its materials besides itself. In a way, then, it is self-sufficient, and thus it is easy to see why the theologian attributes absolute reason to God and bows down before his majesty. In the world, world history,  we disclose the fruits of reason.

Now, there is an interesting inclusion, and perhaps now one may treat this parenthetically; reason is its own end, and if it actualizes its own end, coming to fruition, then it follows that reason is teleological. If reason is self contained, operating according to its purpose, its goal is to realize its purpose, and I think it is only natural to conclude that its purpose is present from its genesis as its operations and realization are in accordance with reason itself. Thus, one has the schema of world history by transposing this dynamic, of reason, purpose, and actualization, to the sequence of human affairs over time–history, and this is what we shall come to see; however, for now, just hold onto this teleological idea, as it shall later become vital.

Let us resume; Hegel, writes, “that this history is the rational and necessary way of the world spirit[the subject of reason qua history, or what may be clarified as the reasoned translation of general will, but on a world scale] which is the substance of history, the one spirit whose nature is one and always the same and which explicates its one nature in the world’s existence”(5). If it is one nature, is the end a singular global government? I believe Dante’s De Monarchia is similar in nature. However, one could also imagine a singular end of reason differentially embodied, as morality might be seen as doing. This thought has found its realization in Pyotr Chaadayev’s philosophy of history, that each nation or civilization enacts God’s moral purpose as best it can, in its own unique manner, though I believe Russia was seen as having special potential thereof. Interesting, his critique of Russia is that it failed to actualize Christian principles, as it sheltered inwards rather than manifesting, as our dear Hegel would have it, even though a common Russian critique of Hegel was that he was denationalizing (for further reading, see the masterful father Copleston’s account of Russian Philosophy). This is to say, we must pay attention to be sure of Hegel’s account of political difference, though it is often said he is a universalist, but we shall come to form our own ideas. After another historiographical critique, which we shall leave for now, he develops the role of the intellectual in the world. He recalls Anaxagoras’s nous, which he uses to demonstrate a general intellectual schema in the world, one that reason passively absorbs but does not produce. This is akin to the laws of physics, or something of the sort. For world history, one needs an active corollary of nous, and indeed one that is teleological, as Hegel recalls Phaedo and quotes the need to deduce ends in particulars, and ends in the general case, which is also called the final end and good end, perhaps adding a normative dimension to his philosophy of history. Hegel, then, continues to elucidate what he is getting towards by comparing it to the rule of providence in the world, when the divine deliberately and rationally acts in the world in specific cases, i.e., with designs in mind; however, again, Hegel requires a generalized extrapolation of this to render world history reasonable. We shall not exhaust Hegel here, so we shall not fully explore the relations of what the world is and what history is. Nonetheless, we can see what Hegel is on about; Anaxagoras’s nous, while omnipresent, confronts reason while reason is passive; however, providence, in the interventionist instance, is reasoned–purposive (unless we forget teleology), and active, but limited, so one needs something omnipresent and active. This is how Hegel views history, that is as the process of human creative reason, that is always at work, and goal-directed. So, world, reason, and history are all intimately connected.  The rest of the section is recapitulation, however keep a few additional things in mind. One, that freedom is the consistent embodiment of one’s essence; therefore, human freedom is acting in accordance with reason. Two, that part of the reason we need a larger dynamic of reasoned agency for history is that history is about the state for Hegel, which is more extensive than the contextualized act of providence. Lastly, what is being worked towards is “Reason comprehended in its determination”(11), which we have already discussed; reason is productive and interpretative at once, i.e., it is everything for Hegel. For example, nature is provided (precognitive), but humans change the environment, according to reason, such that the environment becomes a manifestation of reason, and reason is responsible for comprehending its own creation. Allow us to end our engagement with the first section of the introduction here. Hopefully we now can come to terms with the majesty and grandiose nature of Hegel’s thought, as well as his fiendish complexity.

The Opening Pages of Swann’s Way.

Quite sorry for the lengthy delay; however, we are now ready to begin our reading of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, Swann’s Way. This work is notoriously difficult for good reason. ˇThe prose is difficult, and the fluidity of place and subject makes it difficult to follow along. However, there is no reason to worry because I have you covered :). This entry covers the first five to six pages (yes; the text is that dense).

We are going to read this text very incrementally, because it is painfully difficult, and there is just so much, in every instance, to decipher. So, let us begin dissecting this first page. I think there is a lot to be taken from this first page, e.g., we can see that this great work will focus a lot on experience, consciousness, and subjectivity. So, we start with a memory, the memory of going to bed early. The description “early” is quite important here. “Early” is not only meant in the common sense of arriving before the formal start of an event. Lurking behind this common usage is something philosophically important, that to be early is to be infelicitous. So, having gone to bed early usually means that one shall experience a good quality of sleep, but in the deeper sense of ‘early’, I think we see that our subject will not only experience a decreased quality of sleep, but something that does not qualify as sleep.

There is another derivation; the division between structure (or really any external matter) and experience (internal). The speaker notes sleep is usually prompted by a candle going out; this is something external to the sleeping subject. The candle is a signifier, what it indicates, on the one hand, is conventional and unreflective; it going out indicates sleep, but how this relates to the subject is not so definite. Ideally, the precise moment at which the candle goes out, sleep is initiated; this is the classical structuralist model of meaning. When a signifier is present, so too is the signified. However, one can forecast complications. What if one goes to sleep before the candle is out? Are they awake since the sleep signifier has not been activated. What if one is awake after? Are they then dreaming? This position of the mind in the flux of signs of geography and time is precisely what Proust is on about.

He immediately gives us a demonstration of the sign’s breakdown. The thought that it is time for sleep awakens him. This is certainly a complex event to diagram, it indicates something that is absolutely vital, the mingling of wakeful-life and unconscious-dreams. Usually we speak as if these things are separate; however, Freud noted that each provides material for the other. I think this goes further to say that given going to bed early, the two do not have any real fixed distinction at all. So, the temporal specifications of each are transgressed. For Freud, we always sleep with the light on and stay awake when it is off, as Proust demonstrates so beautifully.

One immediately sees how the spheres of wakefulness and dream are not separate. (By the way, we are still concerned with the first paragraph.) Of the dreams, he says he was the ‘immediate subject’, that is, what the dreams were about, but also the dream’s subject in the sense of the experiencer. So, I characterize the distinction between wakefulness and dreaming as a distinction of activity and passivity. However, going to bed early, in this context meaning prematurely, means the mind has not carved out the distinction. So, he is the experiencer and the object of experience. You know, Foucault had written something of this, not on dreams, but as a general philosophical characteristic of modernity, that man is the subject and object of investigation, something he calls ‘empirico-transcendental’. This means that man investigates himself. So, since he had gone to bed too early, prior to the light going out, the light of experience is still lit and he is “a church, a quartet, the rivalry between Francois I and Charles V”. Now, how can one be the subject and object of a dream? He was not dreaming of himself, as to say “hey, it is I–Swann dressed up like Charles V”. Rather, it is that he generalizes his subjectivity and imposes it on the dream-realm. This is how dreams work; one takes the objects of wakeful life and modifies them to have a function in the dream, and to make an even larger point of this, modern philosophy, particularly phenomenology, says that objects only have existence to speak of in the form of our experiences. Therefore, one is always subjectivizing the world. However, Proust takes this a step further and says, even if we are always subjectivizing, there are not even two distinct spheres of subjectivication, wakefulness and dream, even these collapse into a single continuum of subjectivization. Also, it is rather interesting that he is a rivalry. One can understand being an object, but one has to be on pretty strong narcotics to be a relation; this is almost as odd as when one of my friends was quite high and believed he was music. Anyways, this displacement of identity on rivalry symbolizes the human consciousness as the contested space between the generativity of the mind and its ‘passive assimilation’ of the external world and past events. However, it is apparent that the contest is false, as given the break down between the two, what there really is, is an ultimate transcendental subjective ontology which merges the two.

Upon waking from this merger, there is a space, he can either attach the consciousness to phenomena or not, which is how intentionality, the state of mind is about something, usually works. We can either orient our mind to a book or leave it be, we can direct whether we are one with it, continuously renewing the fixation, not as he was in his dreams.

He then wakes up in a disorientation because his state of consciousness has changed. Yes, we have spoken of an immanent subjective ontology that incorporates the subjectivity of wakefulness and dreaming, however one cannot experience it. It is indirect, just as Being must be an indirect extrapolation for Heidegger (this will make more sense when we read Being and Time). He only hears things, but from these sounds, the mind constructs thoughts, pathways, networks, for elucidation. The train sounds allow him to make a narrative of the man who rides it, awed and facing oddity, but then also the comfort of the return to familiarity. Recently, I spoke to a professor on the topic of Don Quixote; the most esteemed professor said that he is about everything and everything is about him. This is the nature of Proustian subjectivity; Swann’s world is invariably the perpetual mutual determination of his mind and the world, with his mind as the source. He can take the specific and discrete and make a symphony of it, as does Robert Musil, and there is a mild solipsism at play, as he can always project his fragile consciousness across space and time, imagining others and locating himself in them. This serves to affirm how mentalistic existence really is.

He burns a match to look at his watch, a transient bit of elucidation. He sees it is midnight, but the light seen through the bottom of the door says it is morning. Which is right? The enlightenment legacy of precision, quantification, and measurement, or the traditional manner, the regularity of our actions, the natural flow of events, where we make our own various associations? The enlightenment represents human narcissism, that we can construct the world in such a way that we are its masters. Or, does it represent an enlargement of the world, the awareness of new horizons, rendering us smaller and lost? This is how Sloterdijk (we will also read his texts) sees the legacy of the enlightenment. Whatever it is, this method says it is midnight, meaning he has far more agony to endure. However, the folk method of figuring time and place through a series of Humean associationalist-causal determinations, provides comfort. It says it is morning and help will soon come. It ends up being midnight, and this realization is truly torture. The enlightenment has proved correct, but one is still in despair. Even our knowledge will not save us, and indeed, the pain only just begins when we know.

He would wake up sporadically, the room would still sleep, another disjunction; he would have nightmares of his uncle, pulling his hair, the pain ceased when they came off, which he forgot in his sleep, but even in his sleep, the mind-world is incomplete. Notice the room is sleepy. Is it another example of mental projection? Can the world have a color? I think so. When one describes modernity as anxious, the ascription is deeper than people in the world are anxious; the two are inextricable.

In his dreams, he encounters a woman who would come from him like Adam from Eve, but this to me demonstrates the lateral relation of wakeful life and dreams. The woman, a dream, comes from him, not from anywhere, but his side, a token of equality. So, dreams, memories and life all go hand and hand.

He speaks of existential-identitarian disruptions that are incurred from abnormal sleep, and in the immediate after-haze there is only pure animal conscious, no intentionality, just pure experience.  Memory would draw a line back to existence, but is it not the same in sleep? Does mind, through conception, make a static-non-dream world, i.e., a sort of Platonic world of ideas that are second order and built on the material world, the contents of which embodied in wakefulness and sleep. Whatever its source, which at this point, I find it to be memory, this ideal world is the driving force of the transcendental subjectivity aforementioned. Upon waking, the room is in flux until the mind remembers what it was like before sleep. But, it is all about imprints in making up the world, rightly-wrongly; in some sleep positions there is a correspondence to his time in Combray and the affective and bodily memories of past experiences in Combrary bring him back there, but this is only available in that hazy interregnum between sleep and wakefulness proper.  In another memory, in the country, it is there, again, a formal (platonic forms) world of memory, that also stands, not phenomenologically as dreams and wakefulness but, ontologically lateral to ‘reality-present’, in stasis to be accessed, but it is only accessible in the transient waking-dream (The hazy interregnum)? Nonetheless, he finds great “satisfaction” in being shut in from the outer world. He mentions various rooms he shifts between, some explicitly memorial, some like Louis, which he mentions as a dream; so it is hard to distinguish if he is speaking of dreams or memory rooms, but it is a false distinction as they are the same. What controls this insanely overwhelming flux of difference? It is custom, which develops with time, simultaneously infinite and brief, fixing all things in place. So custom in every instance is an attempt to repudiate the incoherent flux of life. Finally, he says he is now awake, things being stable. The angel of certainty has rendered things approximately in their right place. Now, this is fascinating. That an angel has fixed things, to me, indicates that it is mere facade. Modernity is conventionally seen as ushering in an age of secularism, so an angel of certainty is an illusory comfort, i.e., angels and certainty are illusory. Secondly, this certainty only corresponds to  approximate certainty, which reeks of Kantianism. It was Kant’s contention that space and time are essential faculties of the mind that organize the world. Since one can only experience phenomena in terms of space and time, and given the space between experience and reality, there is the consequence that space and time modulate reality in the form of our experience, such that one can never really know what reality really is. I think this concern rises organically due to the speaker’s concern with the instability of location and temporality. Congratulations, in two-thousand words, we have covered the first six pages of the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu.