Originally published on Through Europe, September 2014
“Thought is primarily trespass and violence, the enemy, and nothing presupposes philosophy: everything begins with misosophy.”[i]
“As far as ‘thought’ is concerned, works are falsifications, since they eliminate the provisional and the non-repeatable, the instantaneous and the mingling of purity and impurity, disorder and order.”[ii]
“I distrust all systematisers, and avoid them. The will to a system shows a lack of honesty”[iii]
What has become of lovers of knowledge today? What is the fate of those once revered and proud seekers of truth, those honest and upstanding journeymen of essences and universality? The shadows of these lovers of knowledge and wisdom appear to flit across the mirrors in which we seek ourselves, never leaving more than a fleeting impression, a muffled articulation that no sooner has found expression than it once more disintegrates amidst the determined babble of self-assured objection. And these shadows whisper to us of their own demise, of their submission to the systematisation of knowledge as utmost morality that rests never far from the surface of the façade which emerges of the demand and insistence for a unitary reality. If there is a philosopher of the future, their voice is meek amidst the uproar of accusation and blame; their gaze powerless when confronted with the piercing eyes of certainty; their will ensnared by the blockages and channels of a continually reinforced spiral of systematisation that sets before it the task of absolute universalisation.
What then, has become of the lovers of knowledge today? Their love has been hollowed, turned upon itself, to the point at which conservation and enslavement converge, where reaction emerges from the fear of change, from the weak desire for comfort, the desire for the known and certain to win out over the yet to be found. Here, we find a sorrowful side to repetition’s tragedy, a side that submits us to the entrapment of convention, which snares us in habit, which installs in us that wistful nostalgia which places history in the service of smug self-indulgence and gratification. We have surrendered the possibilities of the future and present to the kitsch and vulgar memorials of the past, to farcical parodies of thought that now stand before us with the authority of knowledge. We have abandoned the present and future, to be placed in the service of this history. We have abandoned it to a history comprised of proper nouns, of memorials and monuments which defile and degrade both the living and the dead, which leave us as insignificant shadows, entirely imperceptible at the base of such grandeur. We are nothing more than a footnote to this history. For if it is declared that now history has ended, it is due to this footnote. It is due to the timeliness of this footnote and our subservience to it. History is over. And at the gates to the mausoleum that seeks to hold this history within itself, standing before us as a memorial demanding absolute venerance, the philosophers-become-watchmen stand guard, protecting their professional domain and the authority of the wise. But history is over only to the extent that we have surrendered ourselves to the received knowledge that these watchmen protect. It is only over to the extent that we have taken hatred for love and love for hatred and demanded of both a binary role; only to the extent that tendencies towards systematisation and delimitation have won out over tendencies towards the chaotic and unordered; only to the extent that the comforting and narcotic, the anesthetising and stupefying, has won out over any will to go-beyond.
It is not that philosophy has died. It is not the spectres of philosophical reflection that now cast their shadows across our reflections, and scatter laments of a wisdom now spent. For indeed the line between the living and the dead is never as clear cut as is generally demanded of it. Philosophy, from the very beginning, has harboured a will to systematisation that could not help but lead it along a sorrowful path. In its creation of knowledge as system, in its uncovering of logos as an uncovering meaning, as an honest and upright striving towards meaning, in its insistence upon its own wisdom, philosophy set itself against itself. Philosophy emerged as its own enemy. Or rather, from the offset, the lover of knowledge was split between at least two tendencies: those of philosophy and misosophy; those of love and hate; those of knowledge as system and thought as violence. The philosophers appeared before themselves as their own enemies. In the very courthouses that they constructed, they would stand trial for the very crime of its construction.
The lovers of knowledge, as such, appear before themselves as their own despisers. As philosophers, so too are they misosophists, lest they be no more than moralists and slaves, high priests of an order that sets before itself the task of enthralling the mind before the heart, or watchmen and sentinels of the established domain of the known. The knowledge of the age, the received wisdom of the times, the morality and dispositions of a period at first repulses the misosophical gaze. Thales faltered in the face of mythos, Socrates abhorred the sophist, and so too all those who become inspired to thought start from misosophy. It is the movement from the camel to lion, from the humble and submissive carrier of burdens to the wild and forceful destroyer of idols. And this movement is one of violence. It is a ‘No’ that is not of negation, but of becoming, the affirmation of becoming as the being of Being, an affirmation of the return to primal oneness, of the disintegration amidst Bacchic revelry that paves way for the illumination of Apollo. The cumulative nature of thought is based not upon the continual addition of objects of knowledge to a firm formation, but is based upon its continual destruction, upon the roars of the lion which clear the way for the fascinated gaze of the child.
Knowledge, as that which is known, that which is schematised and communicable, that which has emerged as object of knowledge, constitutes that domain of discursive formations to which the upholders of wisdom pledge their protection. Knowledge, as the same, as the coherent object that is shared across different subjects, appears fundamentally based on miscommunication and misunderstanding, it is based on compromise and betrayal. Compromise—for it diminishes the different under the banner of the same, allowing its crystallisation as that which is known, that which is the received wisdom of the age, that which is recognised. Betrayal—for it abandons difference, and in this abandonment hands thought over to knowledge, destroying the former for the sake of the latter. The passage from thought to knowledge is marked by the blood of betrayals, and by the recurring insufficiency of compromises forged in conflict. It is marked by violence; a violence that would wrest from the passages and movements of thought fragments and utterances that may be smelted and forged beyond recognition, emerging as that which can be known. From the blood of thought, its violent haemorrhaging, the structures of knowledge take their power. Leech-like, the monuments of knowledge grow strong as thought weakens, as the instability of difference and disorder submit to the hardened repetition of systematisation.
The paths of thought are not clear as are the structures of knowledge. They do not rise before us as great monuments to the wise. Wanderers and travellers of the former find no instruction. There are no guides capable of leading one through the darkened domains of thought. For during the journeys of thought it is thought itself that must serve as seeker whilst simultaneously becoming that domain through which it conducts its search, at once illuminating and undoing, at once transcending and returning. Lost again as soon as it might be found. When thought is compelled to think there is no light to guide the way. Though can’t help but extinguish the illumination of the known. It is precisely the turn away from the known, the plunge into the uncovered, which marks thought. But thought can never be marked in a manner that would make of it object to be known. We cannot ask of thought that it becomes identical to itself, that it be coherent and consistent in each articulation, for it is precisely the unordered domain of potentiality and becoming that thought probes. It pertains to the nature of thought as that which is forever incomplete to be unknown. We know not what the other thinks. But not simply this, we know not what we think. As the mind travels along unexplored passages of thought, it forever falters, stumbles, rushes and ceases, turning back upon itself, doubting itself and the sources of its inspiration, always lost amidst différance. The existential chasm is as pronounced within thought as it is between self and other and is produced only of an instance of consistency and coherence that is the mark of the deification of knowledge.
When we speak of thought we betray thought. We betray thought to the domain of the known. Thought cannot be spoken of except as a betrayal. It cannot be inscribed except as a betrayal. When we utter or inscribe the word thought we demand that it be identical to itself, that we identify thought as something with coherence, something recognisable, and something that is the same as another of an equal order, we demand that thought be thought. We demand this in a dual sense. First we demand that thought be thought in as much as it is identical to itself, such as when we speak of an I that is uttered to declare the coherence of self to which this I can be identical. We remove thought from time and from difference, it becomes devoid of duration and the difference that is integral to duration. We ask of it an origin, a fixed origin or identifiable source of inspiration, a demand that falls under the Judgement of God when confronted with the non-presence of différance and the trace. Second, we demand that thought be thought in as much as the inscribed word inspires thought of the same order as that expressed. Thought must be thought. But thought cannot be thought in as much as its utterance or inscription demands of it. Thought, as misosophy, ventures into domains of potentiality and possibility that render its description an impossibility, that deny the drawing of any cartography that might lead one from received knowledge to thought.
Thought does not simply reach upward towards objects of knowledge, as though the known simply requires illumination and discovery. The identity of the object, and the upright character of knowledge as that reaching toward metaphysical truth does not pertain to thought. Thought does not recognise and cannot be recognised. It does not enter into recognition as the repetition of the same. In the recognition of thought, thought is betrayed to knowledge, misosophy to philosophy. The untimely destructor of the known, the camel-becoming-lion, becomes watchman of the established order, protector of the Law, harbourer of the wisdom of the elders. Thought masks itself from knowledge in an imperceptibility that is no sooner unveiled than it is betrayed and once more hidden. Thought returns as new, the eternal return that is not of the same, but of the new, always the new—always that difference which is at once repetition. The misosophy that compels one to venture out away from the domain of the known, and look back upon that domain with pity and disgust, is forever a transgression, an act of going-beyond.
The emergence of a system of knowledge heralds a kind of death for thought. The internal consistency granted to systems of knowledge, their schematic character, emerges as the becoming-same of that which is schematised. To be grasped as system, the concepts and ideas must be grasped with an internal consistency, which is to say that they must be reduced to the level of similitude and so on to the same. The system that is system is such because it is homogenised, it has be granted an internal consistency that results in the homogenisation of that which is bounded and recognised as internal. The delimitation of knowledge, functions as the homogenisation of the set. Thought has given way to knowledge amidst convulsions and fits that see it drained, whilst playing witness to the singularity of thought and its multiple affirmation, its eternal Yes, diminishing in the face of judgement and homogeneity. One submits oneself to knowledge, but one can never submit oneself to thought. One may be determined by knowledge, but not thought. Thought cannot help but determine itself, it is a space into which free spirits venture. Knowledge negates, whereas thought affirms, always and unavoidably affirms. Thus thought cannot submit itself, and cannot be submitted to—it is always multiple and never to be owned.
The negation that is characteristic to received systems of knowledge, its destruction and dismemberment of thought, emerges as the Judgement of God. It makes no difference that religion no longer holds the sway it once did. As we have declared before and continue to declare—if anything the Judgement of God after the Death of God has found for itself renewed power. It is simply a judgment, still human, all too human, that exerts itself upon the mind and no longer the heart, and is all the more powerful for doing so. The organism finds ever greater expression under a form of judgement that has done away with the gaze of God. The received systems of knowledge and their flocks turn upon us and map out our organs; mapping out our being as Being devoid of becoming. The gaze of knowledge determines that there is in fact nothing more useful, nothing more unavoidable, than an organ. Thought is denied. Divergence from the rule of Law and known is forbidden. The return of difference, the endless return of difference, is minimised, halted in its tracks, in order that the reactive and blameworthy recur in its place. The darkened domains of possibility upon which thought crawls, upon which thought may grope and feel its way, are denied by structures of knowledge that forbid divergence. The ‘No’ of received knowledge and the ‘Yes’ of the slave are one.
But we must be weary of constructing this as a binary function. It was never a case of an absolute opposition between the misosophist and philosopher, nor between thought and knowledge. As we earlier suggested the terra incognita into which thought delves makes the way for knowledge. From the wounds of thought, knowledge takes its strength. The misosophic tendency revels alongside Dionysus, amidst that union that returns us to the unordered, unformed, unstratified and deterritorialised oneness, the primal being of deus sive natura, the extensive domain of continual connection. But so too does this Dionysiac tendency, this Bacchic revelry, prepare the space from which Apollo may delimit his figures and prophecies. From the unordered chaos into which thought travels emerge the lines of flight along which the principium individuationis begins to enact itself. From the domains of extensive connection and raw multiplicity that surrender the meaning of any kind of author-function, emerge the lines of singularisation by which named attribution occurs, by which an oeuvre crystallises, by which we begin to say ‘I,’ even if only to descend once more to the choric point at which connection dissolves the meaning of any delimitation. Thought draws forth from the unordered primal chaos the points of singularity and haecceity by which individuation and systematisation may emerge. Across the darkness of thought, the murkiness of the unknown, Apollo draws his figures of illumination, his delimitations of knowledge, offering points of light that taken together become the constellations of the known by which the watchmen and legislators of the wisdom of the times stand guard.
As much light as these figures may bring, so too can they lead us unto nihilism. The light comforts us, but it comes at the cost of stagnation, of submissive acceptance to a knowledge become legislation, of subordination to monumental history and the wistful nostalgia of the great once-was. Just as Socrates despised the sophists, so too did he become the enthroner of essences; just as he turned his back upon the gods so too did he become the protector of metaphysics. The illuminations that appear to light for us new paths quickly become the loads of the camel and donkey, those load bearing animals, which carry with them the burden of the received wisdom and morality of their ages, and tread only upon the nihilistic grounds of the deserts. Knowledge is always timely—it belongs to its time, it is borne of its time, and it expresses its time. Misosophy is that which is untimely. It is misosophsy that characterises the lion-becoming-child, that art of thinking with a hammer that grants us escape from the nihilism embedded in the attitude that we find in the protectors and legislators of convention and asserters of the correctness and absolute truth of the wisdom of the age. It is misosophy, and its inescapable relation to thought that allows explorations of those unknown lands from which emerge the new, from which the nihilism of hardened and systematised repetition becomes the uncovering of a supple and malleable difference. Nietzsche’s philosopher is as far from Kant’s legislator as misosophy is from philosophy, as thought is from knowledge.
And this is what Nietzsche continues to represent: an eruption of misosophosy amidst a language and knowledge dominated by legislative philosophy. As antidotes to a philosophy-become-courthouse in the wake of the universal legislation and dialectic totalisation, Nietzsche presents the lessons of Zarathustra, the blows of the hammer, the chorus of the dithyramb and the dances of Dionysus. To the soothsayers and night-watchmen of an ever expanding desert, to the grave-guardians of hopelessness, similitude and blame, Zarathustra offers up his laughter rich with the peals of a thousand children. The aphorism and the poem shatter the linearity of language, and the interpretation of even the sphinx’s eyes affirms the necessity of chance and the recurrence of multiplicity. Now, once more may we stand on the side of misosophy as the untimely despiser of the received wisdom of the age, as destroyer of idols and eternal dancer. Confronted with the absurdity and horror of existence, we do not succumb nor blame nor seek retribution, but gaze upon the Erinyes and laugh, see the fate of Hamlet and delight in revelry. When faced with the eternity of suffering we do not fear or hope, but merely wage war, that tragic war that makes of all objects of affirmation and joy.
We now ask ourselves once more: what has become of the lovers of knowledge? Our answer can’t help but be multifaceted. Philosophy and misosophy are one. They have always been inseparable—two tendencies within a tragic art. It is when philosophy submits itself to the wisdom of the age, when it simply stands guard by the delimited expanse of monumental proper nouns from which the watchmen and grave-diggers draw their authority, that philosophy is but a farce of itself and the lovers of knowledge can but stand in the shadows of sepulchres that mark the development of a finalised and conserved history. If today, we find ourselves standing on the side of misosophy, of confronting these hollow, nihilistic tombstones of universalising judgment that continue to spread themselves across the desert upon which we find ourselves, it is because we once more seek the darkened paths of thought. Once more do we seek the descent into Dionysiac revelry and connection by which we may dance with possibilities and potentialities. If today we declare ourselves misosophists, despisers of the received wisdom of our times, of the vulgar egoism that declares itself to be in possession of the truth, that has uncovered the answers that may eclipse the problems, and which draws upon a history reduced to nothing but a series of memorials, it is because once more we wish to play amidst chaos and gaze upon it with the fascination of children. If today we stand before the monuments to the known as their despisers, it is because now, perhaps more than ever, do we ask that thought become untimely. [iv]
[i] Deleuze, Gilles (2004) Difference and Repetition, London: Continuum, p. 175
[ii] Valéry, Paul (2000) Cahiers/Notebooks: Volume 1, Oxford: Peter Lang, p. 48
[iii] Nietzsche, Friedrich (2007) Twilight of the Idols, with the Antichrist and Ecce Homo, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, p. 8
[iv] Postscript: For a long time what is here attempted was to remain unwritten. The apparent impossibility of its inscription had caused a blockage to emerge; the passage from thought to knowledge appeared as impassable, separated by a chasm grand enough to deny any attempt at traversal. Each time I sought to inscribe the passages of my thought I found myself unable. Each time I sought to write those paths upon which my mind had travelled I was confronted with something alien, something foreign, something that did not belong to my thought or to the paths across which it had travelled. The words stared back at me as something other than the incomplete and contingent thoughts that my mind had entertained, and yet undeniably linked to them, undeniably associated to the passages of thought that had resulted in, and yet were inescapably separated from, the words that now appeared on the page.
An early attempt at the transcription of these notions was that of schematisation, that of the relative linearity of the essay, the crystallisation of thought to communicable knowledge. I sought to oppose thought to knowledge and alongside it misosophy to philosophy. I sought to expose the abuse of philosophy as courthouse and the position of philosopher as legislator, pointing to a preference for the misosophist who would challenge the legislative rule of knowledge. Such an opposition was not considered in terms of a binary function, but as the relationship between two immanent tendencies within what would have once been called the ‘human faculties.’ I wanted to examine the chasm that emerges between acts of thinking, and the expression and inscription of the image of thought as knowledge.
But these themes do not belong to knowledge, nor inscription, and find expression in such terms, or through such approaches, to always remain insufficient. It became apparent that the idea that thought cannot be inscribed, could not itself be subject to inscription, could not be communicated through an act of writing. Nevertheless, what is here sought, albeit in fragmentary and inescapably incomplete form, is an exploration of this notion—namely the notion that thought, belonging not to knowledge whilst certainly in interplay with received systems of knowledge, belongs not to inscription nor philosophy, but is instead the domain of misosophsy, the hater of received knowledge and wisdom, the denier of the legislative function of knowledge, and disbeliever of that which is known.
This postscript, which was itself of a further earlier attempt to produce this piece, is now included, in part, in order to demonstrate that the paradoxical nature of the inscription that the current words enact is not lost on us—to represent thought by inscription, to attribute a proper name as author, to speak of thought at all—it is a task that is as tragic as it is impossible.