Saturday, September 27, 2008


“…the ideas which we have of external bodies indicate the condition of our own body more than the nature of the external bodies.”1 And perhaps rearticulate: the ideas we have of external ideas indicate the condition of our ideas more than the nature of the external ideas. Think of the Stoics: make the mind into a corporal element; remember if it is soft, it will have limber ideas; if it is tight, its ideas will fit snugly; if it is fast, its ideas will move at a velocity to which other minds must move in relation; if it is slow, those who think with you must have the patience to suspend judgmental action. “Expression produces momentum […] To express is to speak-with. Any speaking-with implies a dialogue, an infinite conversation.”2
Awareness of one’s own thought-body and thought-movements arises simultaneously with awareness of other moving elements and bodies in the conversation. Such awareness comes at a price, since zoning in on one’s own or another’s or any particular individualized element can cause dizziness, disorientation, and thus provoke panic. It is best at such occasions to squint the mind as you might squint the eyes at an impressionist painting, thereby focusing less on detail and allowing movement and momentum to carry the loosened gaze. In this sense, it is orientation to particular impulses that leads to the greater disorientation.
Adapting another favorite turn of thought: the problem of such decentred conversation (besides the initial fright) is not that a discussion may be too abstract, but that it may not be abstract enough. The potential for precision in a conversation is related to its degree of infinity, which is in turn related to its capacity for abstraction. Infinity increases (yes, increases) to the degree of provision and im-provision: “An infinite conversation supposes that the work is yet to be invented.”3

1 Spinoza, Baruch. 1994. The Ethics. Ed. and trans. Edwin Curley. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Pg. 129
2 Manning, Erin. 2007. Politics of Touch. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. Pg. 111
3 Ibid.

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