Negation, Repetition, and the Tensions Between Writing and Speaking
Inspired by O.G. Rose Conversation #73: High Root and Metamodern Pragmaticism
Sam “High Root” Fishman brought up a point from Žižek on how true negation requires repetition, for otherwise how can we be sure that we’re engaged in “negation” and not just a change in concept? For example, High Root made the point of saying that “I’m a rock-climber, but Alex Honhold from Free Solo is a rock-climber.” High Root stressed that it is important we use the same term and language as before, precisely so that the force and power of the negation is clear. The context of this point was amid a discussion between the differences of “unity” and “harmony” in my language (as described in “Soloing, Harmony, and Singularity”), and this lead into a discussion of why I prefer writing for my philosophical work, a point which lead into discussing Hegel.
I like to use terms like “(w)holeness,” “(in)completeness”—I often use parentheses. Why? Because I agree that we must move from “wholeness” to “(w)holeness,” and want to capture the notion of “return” that is so important in Hegel’s negation (and in the thinking of David Hume). In Hegel, “return” is always a “(re)turn,” which is to say that when we leave x and return to x, what x “was” is negated by our present experience and in accordance with the transformations we underwent during our journey. We are not who we were when we first encountered x, and that can result in us encountering x “in a different way,” which may result in x not being what we thought it would be. Hence, our “ideas about x” are negated but also sublated into our experience of the (new) x, precisely because we understand it in light of our previous ideas, expectations, and the like.
A key point arises: it is precisely because we “return” to x (what we knew before) that we can say with confidence that “change happened.” To acknowledge change, we need familiarity, which points to Deleuze’s thinking on how “difference” and “repetition” are two sides of the same coin: there is no such thing as a “true repetition” in Deleuze, and yet the most meaningful experience of “difference” is precisely when we expect a “repetition” (if there was no idea or “possibility” of repetition, there would be no difference). Funny enough, it is on this point that we can see why Deleuze and Hegel are more similar than perhaps Deleuze wanted to acknowledge: in Hegel, “negation/sublation” requires a “(re)turn,” which is a kind of repetition. Both Hegel and Deleuze entail a logic of “(re)petition,” which is dialectical (despite Deleuze’s dislike of the dialectic), and also suggests why Deleuze can be integrated into Hegel even if Hegel is not so easily integrated into Deleuze.
(It’s another subject, but this “(re)turn” in Hegel might also suggest where the notion of “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis” arose from, for it “seems like” the notion of “(re)turn” entails a synthesis. And in a way, it does, but it strongly depends on what we mean by the word “synthesis”—a clarification taken up throughout O.G. Rose.)
Anyway, if I leave x and go to y, we cannot say a “negation/sublation” has necessarily occurred, or anything dialectical, for I may have simply moved from x to y. Funny enough, though this seems to obviously be a “change,” there’s a sense in which we can’t actually say that any “change occurred,” only perhaps a “movement between x and y.” Yes, perhaps “we changed,” but to say with any confidence that “change occurred in this thing,” we require some degree of repetition and “return.” And yet at the same time “return” is impossible (for things do change), only “(re)turn,” which suggests that it is primarily in “the paradox” of trying to return to something that we realize “pure return” is impossible. (This hints at why it is A/B-acts which can help us realize our A/B-ontology, a language used throughout O.G. Rose—but that will be elaborated on elsewhere.)
This suggests a difference between “change” and “move,” where if we want to experience a “meaningful difference” between the terms, we will require repetition. Yes, I understand that if a bird flies across the sky and “moves” that “change” has occurred, as I understand the categories of “change” and “move” seem to always overlay, but the point is that the deepest experience of “change” versus only “movement” comes out precisely in the repetition that seems to negate change. When I return to the same spot, it seems like “I’m just doing this again” or “It’s the same as before,” and so discussing “change” seems inaccurate. And yet it is precisely in this instance of repetition that the inescapability and omnipresence of change is most (“meaningfully”) definable, for we can say with much more confidence that “change occurred” in us viewing and experiencing “the (supposed) same thing,” versus if we “moved between entities.”
Do note that returning and repetition in space in certainly one way to identify change, but the impression is even stronger if we stay in the same place or observing the same entity through time. We can repeat through time and space, and if we were to sit on our porch and look out on our backyard and actually sit there for an hour, the reality of change can become more meaningful. It’s one thing to know that “everything is in flux,” but something else entirely to try to (paradoxically) still ourselves enough to actually experience that flux. It is in deep and true efforts to “repeat” and be “still” that change gains fullest profundity.
Thomas Winn in a conversation with Dr. Cadell Last used the term “nihilating” versus “annihilating” to describe “negating efforts” (which suggest sublation and even “redemptive consequences”), and suggested that a reason we fail to see positive dimensions to “nihilism” is because we conflate it with “annihilation.” To “nihilate” is to “move aside” and “suspend” versus destroy, and if we sit down on our porch and just sit there, we nihilate our own “movement” so that we can really “taken in” how the world outside of us operates. And by nihilating ourselves, the constant and perpetual change of the world becomes vivid.
Alright, doesn’t all this mean that I personally need to abandon my language of “harmony” in favor of “unity,” alluding back to the earlier example? Indeed, how much I would like to if only I could always clearly communicate in speech that by “unity” I do not mean “a wholeness that effaces difference,” but this proves impossible. New terms prove necessary because speech isn’t visible, and though different emphasizes on terms could be used (such as in High Root’s example), this is very difficult to do. And once I use a term like “harmony” in speech, it becomes tricky not to use it in writing so that my writing and speaking align, adding to the problem. In this way, human communication proves tragic and a hindrance to grasping the profundity of Hegel.
I always speak with my writing “in the background,” which is to say I must speak in a manner that algins with my writing, as my writing must algin with my speaking. And this very tension contributes to a failure in us being “fully Hegelian,” per se, similar to the way Alexander Bard in The Global Empire discusses Deleuze as “tragically” unable to be fully “mobilistic” due to his need to write his ideas down. To in speech really communicate the negation/sublation of “(w)holeness” versus “wholeness,” I must verbally say, “parathesis-w wholeness,” which is strange and hard to communicate. Hence, I generate a new term like “harmony,” but the risk of this is a loss of what High Root stresses—a tragedy I cannot deny.
In closing, Heraclitus taught us that we cannot step in the same river twice, but funny enough it is only by trying that we really and fully experience what Heraclitus taught. The full “negation/sublation” is experienced in the doomed effort to do what we may try to do precisely because we know it cannot be done, just so that the impossibility is something we really feel and embody. “Ideas are not experiences,” as argued throughout O.G. Rose, and without repetition, it proves difficult to translate “negation/sublation” from an idea into something that transforms our lives. Perhaps every experience of an idea is a “(re)turn” to it?