It lives.

cainThe basic thought that I want to defend is something like the following – the only viable way of dealing with technology is by treating it as intentional. (This extension of ‘intentionality’ must makes something strange of the concept, although that will have to await a later discussion.)  Put slightly differently, it lives.  This ‘it lives’ – rather than, say ,’it is’ – is more than simply ‘it works’, though it depends upon this primal production of production.  It is also this ‘it lives’, that screams, that fucks, that loves, that fights and that dies.  It is at work everywhere, once it begins working – and it did not need to begin working, it did not need to happen, it might have not happened.  Now that it has, what is to be done about it?

The privilege of the human, that strange inability to get away from seeing the world as ‘out there’ and something that can be ‘owned’ is horrific.  The real terror is in the unthought assumption that there is something special, particular, unique in those entities that think, intend, desire and choose.  It is as though somehow the real were split between at least two types of thing, always two: the living and the dead; the organic and the inorganic; the right and the wrong.  The division of reality into two might be a necessity in practice that is constantly produced again and again, it might even be the very condition of the real itself, dividing itself from the unreal, but the division is an illusion, a field of mirrors that inevitably captures all in its refractions. Or rather, not an illusion but a shimmering, or a shining.  Room 237.  It invites us to come and play with it, for ever and ever.

The response goes, there’s no getting away from it, from being stuck inside this thing, this production, and as such any story about it is as much simply part of the thing it pretends to present – which implies that this perspective is as illusory as any other.  The collapse into nihilism – and not in a good way – ensues.  At best this might be reduced to a form of Buddhist-inspired ‘non-dualist’ mysticism, at worst it’s just irrational self-contradictory rubbish.  Who cares?  I’m not here to persuade you or anyone else of anything, I couldn’t care less if you live or die or think or eat or shit or cry.  I’m talking to myself, inside a technology that has a life of its own, that demands some sacrifice for it to work, and it is that technology that I’m talking to now, the technology of language, of thought, of text, of discourse, of spelling.  The sacrifice is this string of symbols, this push towards coherence, towards order, that always slips.

God is a technology, or rather, the gods are a technology.  If language, or mark-making perhaps, is the first technology of transmission, fire the first technology of transformation and the weapon the first technology of destruction then the gods are the first technology of ordering.  These gods arise, late in the day, as a result of the attempt to order the living and the dead, the peculiar moment when the skin sags and no longer breathes.  Death should be thought in terms of the first moment of haunting, the first moment of that which is gone-but-not-gone, the first contradiction with which all those who encounter death have to live.  Before it is the possibility of my impossibility death is the sagging skin sack emptied of something that cannot be seen, the first real moment of concrete abstraction.

Murder is the first explosion in the production of this concrete abstraction, after which the demand for order arises.  It might be said that the first condition of possibility for God is Cain.  Abel is the sacrifice that concrete abstraction demands and from it arises technology as the power of such abstraction.  The stone becomes a weapon; the blow becomes an act; the sagging skin becomes the two-faced goddess of death and life entwined.  Inside the act of murder there arises the concrete abstraction of ‘the reason’ (inside which, curled up to the teat of the event, a whole litter of mewling concepts swarm, such as motive, cause, aim, goal, desire, necessity, direction) and as it uncurls its body this ‘reason’ infuses the universe with its intentionality.  From that moment on it is best to treat everything as part of this intentional nexus, not because that is ‘the truth’ or ‘the real story’ but because it is now the only sane thing to do if you want to live rather than merely persist, if you want to act rather than behave, if you want to think rather than not.


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philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

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