56. IBP: Cleo Kearns on Ritual & Resistance

dance

It’s been another busy period but finally it’s time for Cleo Kearn’s interview to be released into the world before I head off on holiday.

Ritual and Resistance is the title of our conversation as we tackle ritual, religion, Buddhism, resistance and change. We discuss the following topics in the first half; Continental Philosophy, Anthropology and Religion, religious sacrifice, Shamanism and Catholicism, Durkheim and Lacan.

And then go deep into discussing ritual; its ubiquity, its role in societies, why some survive and others don’t, its role in social formation and dissolution, freeing and managing desire, selfhood, challenges to ritual in our age, Buddhism and Tantra, death, activism, innovation and more.

Enjoy!

Links
O’Connell Coaching: oconnellcoaching.com
Post-Traditional Buddhism: posttraditionalbuddhism.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/imperfectbuddha
Twitter: twitter.com/Imperfectbuddha

21 thoughts on “56. IBP: Cleo Kearns on Ritual & Resistance

  1. Some thoughts that come up after listening to the interview. It was enjoyable to hear you both enjoying the interview, thanks.

    You touched on immanence and transcendence, which has relevance to the recent themes on the podcast. There is a critique which can be leveled at both post-traditional buddhism (PTB) and SNB. Both attempt to transcend x-buddhism, but deny this, which complicates deciding how to proceed. The idea that we should live in accordance with any one particular doctrine is dead after post-structuralism – so the Great Feast needs to happen.

    In the case of PTB its critique should broaden the scope i.e. PTB should be investigating more contemporary knowledge. It does that with an interest in SNB. PTB values an intellectual analysis, which is great, and it seems one of the conclusions should be the inevitability of politics. So I really hope you are going to make the political turn on the podcast. In some ways x-buddhism is a debate over who is in the driving seat while the car heads toward a cliff, without any intention of changing direction.

    SNB is a bastardisation of non-philosophy. There is a misguided use of the concepts within SNB when it takes x-buddhism as an object of critique, which becomes its own decision point. The way in which SNB is a project about x-buddhism is in itself a navel gazing exercise that fits within the context of x-buddhism. The insight of SNB should be the need to transcend x-buddhism, instead it keeps on falling back into it. The project tends to attract those looking for a new foundation on which to save themselves. It is a reincarnation of the x-buddhist project, which is all it can be because non-philosophy is a tool for thinking and the material of SNB is largely limited to that of pre-modernity (buddhism) and modernity (marxism typically).

    Just as a side point I don’t think even Laruelle uses the term non-philosophy now, it has become “non-standard philosophy”. As Laruelle realises his work fits within a tradition, I guess the SNB kids will eventually hear about this.

    Bringing this back to your interview. A major issue with SNB is that it has a sort of fetish with “the real” as if immanence is something we could pursue. The impossibility of having a non-human perspective does not seem to be on the radar. This has been setup by Glenn in the past (on the imperfect buddha podcast) as if there are two alternate perspectives one transcendent and another immanent. If we realise that symbols are inherent to meaning then we see that symbols inherently transcend that which generates them. This is to say that you can’t talk about or experience immanence without performing an act of transcendence.

    Rather then seeing immanence as a thing (that would be a contradiction as things and relations are a result of anthropocentric symbolism) we can see it as a concept that is generated by the conceptualisation of transcendence i.e. it is a result of how we symbolise, not something that is independent of our human predicament. This is a sort of Wittgensteinian move, whereby the problem dissolves when we understand the meaningless nature of the question.

    A result of modernity has been a privileging of the individual and it seems your interview is onto something regarding the social nature of ritual. A critical issue for contemporary society is bringing awareness to amoral social processes, ritual might be a way of experimenting with processes that can result in a broader awareness of the consequences of our particular perspective.

    You have already made some moves towards a “way of the non” which I think has more potential than SNB because it can be much broader. When you spoke about that it reminds me of the difference between foundational and non-foundational philosophy. Perhaps that could provide some more meat on the bones of the way of the non 🙂

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    1. I think it perfectly fair to suggest that some at the SNB may have a fetish for immanence as we often tend to fetishize a new toy before coming to terms with its ‘true’ nature, or less obvious character. I don’t think it’s as easy as some might think to give up transcendence. In fact, this would be an odd way to think about it anyway.

      The idea of minimal transcendence seems to me, at least, to be a gesture towards that which is beyond our animal minds and we gesture along with it.I also think that Adrian Ivakhiv was right in stating that the two are in constant action if we take a very broad understanding of the two conceptually to encompass all relational forms of being and acting in the world.

      As a practice, to strive for immanence is to commit to certain kinds of human relationships, that’s all. Relationships that act as an affront to certain kinds of desire rife in spiritual, religious, and political communities. I would tend to suggest that from my perspective at least, Glenn has attempted to avoid turning the SNB into a cult, a reiteration of Buddhism, another -ism, and so on, but that doesn’t stop instincts pushing it that way on occasion. The commitment is simply to keep committing and committing again to relationships that consciously seek to minimize the transcendent allure.

      I also think it’s clear that much work at the SNb goes way beyond Glenn’s heuristic and non-philosophy and non-buddhism. If I recall correctly, Tom Pepper is not a fan of Laruelle and he wrote some great material on ideology.

      I’d be curious to hear what tools you are constantly playing with and how you might use them to critique Glenn’s work.

      As for my “project”, thanks for your thoughts. I should probably admit that I have little idea of where I’m going these days so if something of use comes from the podcast, the coaching work, and the writing that should start up again soon, I shall be as pleased as anyone. I am struggling with this damn political turn though…

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      1. There you go again Mathew, treading that middle ground so delicately 😉

        “our animal minds” risks to build in the mind/body dualism that we might want to try and swap out (of course that exercise will create new dualisms, but perhaps more useful ones in the current context).

        Perhaps the best attempt at doing immanence is Deleuze. He seems to try and chase out transcendence wherever he finds it. But I think that is a game of musical chairs. The inherently limited possibilities for human knowledge may be better worked with than against.

        Relationalism is certainly a preferable paradigm to the essentialist individualism we are currently suffering through. But relationalism can itself be essentialized, I find it useful to think of essentialism and relationalism as inevitable consequences of unavoidable transcendence.

        I see both Glenn and Daniel attempting to avoid a cult, only to result in some intense cultish behavior. They are non-responsible for that, but it might take a long time to define that term in a way they would accept it.

        SNB would be a more interesting project if it turned on itself (briefly) rather than pecking over a dead x-buddhist corpse. But it has generated a certain fetish. Tom did bring some great insight and it is perhaps a failing of SNB that they seem to have parted ways. Tom is perhaps a particularly annoying subject for any cult 🙂

        Mainly I’ve been exploring social constructionism as developed by people like Gergen and Shotter. Behind that is a lot of Wittgenstein, Khunn, Derrida and Foucault. Deleuze is also inspiring. It is hard work to get from those writers to contemporary philosophers like Laruelle, the professionalization of philosophy often seems to have writers burying the connections.

        My impression is that there was some baby thrown out with the bath water when postmodernism was pegged as producing nihilism/relativism. One line of thought that made it through that is social constructionism – which has inspired practises e.g. collaborative and dialogic practices, appreciative inquiry. I see potential there because social constructionism originally focused on connecting micro-social and macro-social processes.

        I feel your pain regarding the political turn. One challenge is to find a generative context in which these ideas can be developed. It needs to be a group that does the work I think. Face to face work seems to be far more productive that a lot of the internet’s attempts. It is really hard work to listen and internet exchanges quickly degenerate toward twitterish behavior.

        If you want a friendly ear to bounce ideas with then it would be my pleasure.

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  2. Mark. Thanks for your attention to our work. Here are some quick responses, conversation style.

    Mark: There is a critique which can be leveled at both post-traditional buddhism (PTB) and SNB. Both attempt to transcend x-buddhism, but deny this, which complicates deciding how to proceed.The idea that we should live in accordance with any one particular doctrine is dead after post-structuralism.

    Glenn: Yes, there are, many in fact. But the one you mention isn’t one of them. I’ll let Matthew O’Connell speak for himself. And, concerning SNB, I’ll speak only for my own contributions. Non-buddhism doesn’t “attempt to transcend x-buddhism.” (So, you are indeed right about the denial!) It attempts to do things with it. If that doing is what you mean by “transcend,” then we are in agreement. But that’s not what I understand by the term. So, you’d have to point me to a passage or something where you see this happening, or else say more about what you mean it. Otherwise, I don’t know what you’re actually talking about.

    M: SNB is a bastardisation of non-philosophy.

    G: This statement shows such a poor understanding of non-philosophy that I don’t know where to begin. (See above about “doing things with.” Also, maybe have a look at Ó Maoilearca’s work All Thoughts Are Equal and on performance philosophy. Even better: read Laruelle on the application of his work to local knowledges, etc.) Another reading: This statement shows such an excellent understanding of non-buddhism that I don’t know where to begin explaining that being a “bastardization” is a really good thing!

    M: There is a misguided use of the concepts within SNB when it takes x-buddhism as an object of critique, which becomes its own decision point. The way in which SNB is a project about x-buddhism is in itself a navel gazing exercise that fits within the context of x-buddhism.

    G: This is a muddle: (1) What do you mean by “misguided? Based on what/whose criteria? SNB is clear about what guides it, so where have we strayed from our own (open and anarchic) guidelines? (2) What do you mean by “decision point”? Unless you are using the term “decision” in a trivial, non-technical way, what you say doesn’t make sense (eg. there is no transcendental operator grounding non-buddhist assertions, postulates, etc.). (3) How is a project’s being about some x necessarily (i) “navel gazing,” and (ii) what does “navel gazing” even mean? (4) Of course it “fits within the context of x-buddhism”! That’s the point! (Please see above re: doing things with.)

    M: The insight of SNB should be the need to transcend x-buddhism, instead it keeps on falling back into it. The project tends to attract those looking for a new foundation on which to save themselves. It is a reincarnation of the x-buddhist project, which is all it can be because non-philosophy is a tool for thinking and the material of SNB is largely limited to that of pre-modernity (buddhism) and modernity (marxism typically).

    G: Why don’t you do all of that?! Should, save, new foundation–those very words make me shudder. I have no idea what that last fragment means: I am not interested in pre-modern forms of x-buddhism; and I am interested in the thinker Marx only for his critique of capitalism. I disagree with Marxism as a political orientation.

    M: Just as a side point I don’t think even Laruelle uses the term non-philosophy now, it has become “non-standard philosophy”. As Laruelle realises his work fits within a tradition, I guess the SNB kids will eventually hear about this.

    G: Fuck Laruelle! (Have you read the guy? He says such things himself about “Laruelle.”) Yes, he started using “non-standard philosophy” a while ago. He says he switched because he got sick and tired of having to explain to people that the “non” already contains within itself “standard.” The “non” implies operations on standard philosophy, which in turn presupposes that you leave standard philosophy as it is. I prefer “non-x.” That part about fitting into the tradition is not quite right. It precisely sticks out from the tradition, like, as AP Smith says, a jagged root protruding through the ground on which philosophers get tripped up. So, no, it does not “fit in.”

    M: A major issue with SNB is that it has a sort of fetish with “the real”…

    G: You are not capable of being more wrong than you are here! (1) SNB, like non-philosophy, wants to stop talking about the Real once and for all. Let’s assume it axiomatically (=without making arguments for it); keep it in the background of our thinking; practice and live as if it were the case; test our concepts and claims against the axiom; but shut up about it. A propensity for Real-talk is precisely the dull mistake that forms such as x-buddhism, philosophy, religion, spirituality, etc., etc., etc., etc., tediously and interminably and I’m afraid eternally and seemingly with immense pleasure and desire and hope (or is it jouissance) make.

    M: …as if immanence is something we could pursue.

    G: Whoever said anything on SNB about pursuing immanence?! Identify the scoundrel and we shall roll out the guillotine post haste. For every SNBer worth his/her weight in incomprehensible jargon knows: You can not pursue immanence!

    M: The impossibility of having a non-human perspective does not seem to be on the radar. This has been set up by Glenn in the past.

    G: I don’t know what you are referring to here. (It might be a set up!) What is a “non-human perspective”? And where did I mention the what—desirability? possibility? goal?—of that perspective?

    M: …as if there are two alternate perspectives one transcendent and another immanent. If we realise that symbols are inherent to meaning then we see that symbols inherently transcend that which generates them. This is to say that you can’t talk about or experience immanence without performing an act of transcendence.

    G: I can only assume at this point that you and I are not using terms like “transcendence” and “immanence” in commensurable ways. I have used the concept of “radical immanence” from the outset of SNB because it names not an absolute immanence but a minimally transcendent one (language already implicates us in a form of transcendence, etc.).

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  3. Hi Glenn (or are you Daniel in disguise!),

    Generally, your confusion for your opinions and SNB are similar to Daniels reactions. Somehow you have decided that you are the gatekeeper of knowledge. When you can understand me it is to demonstrate that I can’t be more wrong, when you can’t understand me it is because I can’t use language to the standards of the gatekeeper of knowledge. If only I could understand SNB then all my criticisms would be answered…

    G: Non-buddhism doesn’t “attempt to transcend x-buddhism.” (So, you are indeed right about the denial!) It attempts to do things with it.

    M: My point is that you don’t realize what you are doing. In the same way a good x-buddhist would deny a transcendent doctrine.

    G: This statement shows such a poor understanding of non-philosophy that I don’t know where to begin….This statement shows such an excellent understanding of non-buddhism that I don’t know where to begin…

    M: If your interlocutor has to be someone who does not understand, which seems to be your preference (given your role as the high priest of SNB), then go for option one.

    M: I am looking at SNB not Glenn’s SNB or what Glenn wants SNB to be. You do have interesting things to say, I appreciate your work. But it is what SNB does in the world that defines SNB not Glenn’s opinion about SNB (which I would be fairly certain nobody else involved in the project would have any chance of expressing).

    G: SNB is clear about what guides it

    M: The naivety of that statement is outrageous

    G: Why don’t you do all of that?!

    M: Why do you assume I am not?! But I must admit to slow progress.

    G: Should, save, new foundation–those very words make me shudder.

    M: Right, so what is going wrong in SNB? I think it needs more post-modern material. There are great insights into the shortcomings of x-buddhism through SNB. I am trying to point out the shortcoming of getting stuck in one’s satisfaction.

    G: Fuck Laruelle!

    M: Laruelle is perhaps a victim of the professionalisation of philosophy. I consider people like Derrida and Deleuze to be philosophers and Laruelle does not give them their dues.

    G: stop talking about the Real once and for all

    M: Google claims 190 occurrences of “the real” at speculativenonbuddhism.com

    G: You can not pursue immanence!

    M: I am glad you agree, but I am less sure this is not part of the SNB spirit.

    G: What is a “non-human perspective”?

    M: Tied up with contemporary philosophy’s desire to escape anthropocentrism. Which I don’t understand either, we might be better off becoming human.

    G: minimally transcendent

    M: That is ridiculous, it is doing what I was criticizing, imagining that you can “get close” to “immanence”. I agree that language transcends, but the situation is even worse, you don’t “experience” so probably hard to go there.

    In any case your reaction to critique seems to have leveled the x-buddhist and SNB playing field. The conversation might be generative in some unpredictable way, maybe we are not wasting our time. It is much easier to pull something down, I hope there will be more raw material going into SNB that has nothing to do with x-buddhism. Perhaps Mathew will make some progress in that direction with the approaching political turn!

    So long and thanks for all the words.

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  4. I have three ideas, Mark. (Idea 1) Why don’t you write up your critique of SNB or non-buddhism or my ideas about these things or whatever it is you are criticizing here, and I will post it on the blog? We can then have a substantive discussion. Please do. But you would, of course, have to go far beyond the mere bland assertions that your two comments here consist entirely in. That is, you’d have to bring to life the vivifying, edifying, synapse-firing, mastery-denying, jouissance-arousing Kreatur called “an argument.” (Idea 2) Why don’t you simply employ the concepts and tools of non-buddhism to a particular end, say a system of belief with which you have grappled. A mere critique of non-buddhism is really not that interesting. It’s sort of like criticizing a hammer. Of course there are better and worse hammers, and every hammer has its flaws. But in the end, doesn’t it only matter what you can do with the thing? In applying the methods of non-buddhism, you can actually craft something out of your chosen materials. Isn’t that a better use of everyone’s time? (Idea 3) Combine Idea 1 and Idea 2 and use non-buddhist heuristics to reveal the obscured identity, decisional point, ignorance of guiding principles, etc., etc., that you are claiming for non-buddhism. I’d love to see what that looks like!

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  5. Hi Glenn, I am to some extent trying to do 3) but I am trying to do that without limiting the tools for thinking to non-buddhism. As your analogy suggests, when you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail (or x-buddhism in your case). Although I understand you think we can only think through a non-buddhist heuristic I am less convinced. Now if I tried to do 1) with 3) it would be of no use because it does not privilege non-buddhism, so it would not be understood and the SNB kids would want to show how much better their hammer is. The interest for me is generating practises, I think we need additional tools than those SNB proposes. Commenting and observing gives some sort of indication if 3) is an option worth pursuing and so far you can see the result. But I will be there for you after the crucifiction!

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    1. I don’t want to get into the middle of your fling with Glenn here but I do think his suggestion of writing a critique is a good one. If you don’t have your own blog, and see the SNB as potentially problematic (for whatever reason), I can always host a post here. You seem to be very knowledgeable Mark, so why not? Good critique is always welcome. Iron sharpens iron and all that.

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      1. “so why not?” well it would be a lot of hard work and Glenn has already blessed me as ignorant, that is a privilege that is hard to give up 🙂

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    2. Mark. You say: “I am to some extent trying to do 3) but I am trying to do that without limiting the tools for thinking to non-buddhism.” Great. But the extent, so far, is way too limited to warrant an actual case or argument. You have only made assertions. So, my idea is for you to write up a full-fledged critique. Again, assuming it will take the form of an argument, I’ll publish it on SNB, the site of our particular ideological struggle.

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      1. Glenn the only critique that would be of use to SNB would be an internal critique, that would be an interesting exercise and I encourage you to engage in it. I am just doing my job, you do yours. Now if one day you get interested in other paradigms, then likewise I would appreciate your critique (that means you personally not the SNB hit squad). Regarding argumentation you might like Derrida’s insight into phallogocentrism, but that risks to hurt when you grasp it.

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  6. Dearest Mark, The hard work may be worth it and I am not convinced by your final claim that the critique ought to be an internal one; that does seem like a cop out, I’m afraid. Go on, find soem time, do a great public service, and out a few words together.

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    1. Hi Matthew,

      A paradigm like SNB, as I understand it, is non-foundational and so it will not allow for a rational analysis based on a belief in a shared universal truth. It may not be understood in that way by many of the participants, for example perhaps they are “grounding” or “founding” their perspective in “getting close to immanence”. But you can see how, even if Glenn behaves as if he can get close to immanence with a minimal transcendence, he is also not going to accept that criticism because of some axioms he has written regarding non-x.

      In a foundational philosophical position it may be possible to make progress with a critique from another perspective. For example we might criticise liberalism with pragmatism and come to neoliberalism. This is helped if you can find a shared ground (maybe individualism in that example). For example, you might have been tempted after discussions with Glenn to find a compromise between immanence and transcendence, that is a modern reflex (looking for the common ground that must underlie any dualism), but it seems misguided from a postmodern paradigm.

      A non-foundational philosophy is a paradigm that already denies claiming universal truths. So while SNB can tear apart x-buddhism because x-buddhism does ground its perspective with a “decision point”, it is very difficult for a x-buddhist to come up with a pertinent critique of SNB (it is a slippery fish in a classic debate). Another example of this might be the “divide” between analytic and continental philosophers – a writer like Derrida will just drive an analytic philosopher nuts.

      From my perspective what matters is what SNB is doing i.e. how is it generating the future. If it has the potential to so that or is doing that in a way I want to support, then it would make sense to invest more energy.

      If someone tries to critique SNB from a foundational paradigm then the conversation might be good fun for someone like Glenn, but it is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

      If someone takes another non-foundational perspective then this might be useful for SNB, if SNB could understand itself as not the only game in town. The famous axioms that Glenn is so proud of are a sort to price of entry he wants people to pay to play. At that point, because Glenn also buys into in a modernist perspective of expertise and his superior ability to “argue”, then it would likely be a futile exercise to actually try and have a dialogue. As I’ve already mentioned on SNB, they could probably benefit from ideas like “collaborative and dialogic practises”. They hang themselves with a valid criticism of x-buddhism’s “right speech” by assuming that this must make “wrong speech” desirable – which is just another manifestation of the same problem they criticised.

      The internal critique would be valuable because it may help with coherency and it keeps the non-foundational aspiration front and center. So there is good reason to engage in it. Given the state of SNB the most effective way to critique it would be to show how it is incoherent in terms of its own axioms. Typically this would deploy some form of deconstructionism to show that aspects of what SNB believes it is avoiding are in fact only suppressed (and alive and well).

      If we look at various non-foundational paradigms and consider them in terms of their potential, then an investment in internal critique makes sense in the communities making most progress. That is a much longer answer of why my energy is going elsewhere. But I still see SNB as an interesting project because it raises issues with non-foundational paradigms in general.

      You really are a star in terms of curiosity, which is a trait that is painfully missing elsewhere.

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  7. Hi Mark. Two things: (1) “Glenn behaves as if he can get close to immanence with a minimal transcendence.” No. The idea is that we are all already and only ever in immanence. But certain human modes create the illusion that we are not. The two most important ones for my work are language and what Kant calls the “transcendental illusion.” So, even “transcendence” is immanental. Crucially, I don’t what this business–immanence/transcendence/the Real–to drive the discussion. I want to assume certain things, admit that we are ultimately dealing the human, subjective productivity, and not with the ontological truth, of certain matters, and move on to forms of practice or engagement. (2) “Given the state of SNB the most effective way to critique it would be to show how it is incoherent in terms of its own axioms.” Great! Please get to work. BUT: bear in mind that “SNB” has to be replaced by “non-buddhism,” and that the source material has to be A Critique of Western Buddhism. Unlike many of the critical SNB blog texts, which go in many different directions, non-buddhism is, or is claiming to be, primarily a theory.

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  8. Glenn, you continually take a posture of the person who already has the answer. Why not try listening. When I write you are trying to get close to immanence you say, “no, I am doing minimal transcendence” (my phrasing, not yours). When I write you are treating immanence as something, you reply no “we do not talk about the real” (my phrasing, not yours), then your last comments is about “being in immanence”. These are incoherencies.

    You don’t want to assume “ontological truth” but your position is grounded on an ontological truth of “immanence”. Obviously it is agreeable when a conversation is what you “want” but that is a position from which you will not be able to learn much.

    As you write “the idea” is that “we are only ever in immanence”. Note you write about an idea of the real – which is what non-buddhism doesn’t want to do. You write that certain modes create an illusion we are not “in immanence”, which implies you think certain modes are “in immanence”. It should be obvious that whatever those modes are, it does not include your mode, because you are attached to “an idea” about immanence.

    It would be a lot of work for me to do an internal critique of non-buddhism. Mainly because you are adopting a stance of “defending” your arguments. If you want critique then encourage it with what you “do” not what you “say”. Is there really nothing of use in what I wrote, in which case why are you replying (maybe out of compassion for my ignorance?) If there is something of use, then make it more useful by being self critical rather than playing the high priest of SNB.

    I agree we need to assume something, I would go a step further and say we need to have a theory (conscious or not). The problems start when you try to turn a non-foundational position into a foundational position because you (wrongly) assume that theory must be grounded (I see your connection with Kant here). This is something you are “doing” even if you write about not doing it and not wanting to do it.

    Needing to plunge into “A Critique of Western Buddhism” to save x-buddhism is of less interest, I’m more interested in a “A Critique of Western Society”. I would say that is it “A Critique of Western Buddhism” that encourages me to move on to “A Critique of Western Society”.

    The more interesting position for theory is “we are only ever in transcendence” and any talk of “the real” or “immanence” is yet another form of transcendence (which is one reason not to bother talking about it). One of the practises this might lead to is more humility. It allows for a non-foundational paradigm because the theory is yet another mode of transcendence, not some privileged mode of immanence.

    Whatever theory you want to use makes epistemological and ontological assumptions (there can’t be one without the other). The only way I see out of that pit is to take a non-foundational stance, which inevitably allows for multiple epistemologies.

    A major risk I see of any theory is when it denies transcendence, this “decision point” is where it will unravel. This is where SNB is falling on its own sword.

    If these comments (I must admit they are repetitive on this page) are of no use then we should assume my critique would be of no use either. This gives a sort of neutral testing ground to see if we can actually be useful.

    PS. Your demonstration of argumentation with statements like “No.” is of great comical effect. I imagine you have pleasant conversations in that mode.

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  9. Mark. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to read my work and make critiques. If I don’t seem to be learning from you, it’s certainly not because you lack insight and intelligence. It has more to do with the well-documented fact that the more substantive issues that you are raising here have occupied much of my time and energy in the past several years. That is not to say that these issues have been solved, or that they are uninteresting, or that I would prefer to evade them, or something else. In fact, you raise super interesting and important issues, issues in fact that lie at the heart of the non-buddhism project. Because these issues have been discussed in such incredible richness at the SNB blog (=partly accounts for the 190 hits of “the real, I suppose), I was able to provide what I believe to be a highly cautious, informed, sophisticated, and nuanced account of them in A Critique of Western Buddhism. So, when you write that I “continually take a posture of the person who already has the answer,” I can only answer, “of course I do!” I already have the answer to what it is I want to do with my theory of non-buddhism, as well as with my largely psychologically-cognitively oriented heuristic. And this is what we are discussing here, right? It is what I am trying to discuss, anyway. When you say things like “Whatever theory you want to use makes epistemological and ontological assumptions,” I think: okay, and that is precisely why Laruelle encourages us to follow him in “bringing peace to the philosophers.” There is no end to such disputation. That statement does not entail that we be done with the terms of that disputation. It entails, at least in the “non” practice, that we assume value in the terms–eg. immanence/transcendence/the Real/things as they are/emptiness/intersectionality/gender, ad infinitum–because they obviously aim to capture features of extreme importance to human beings. The “non” doesn’t want to settle these matters philosophically. It wants to expose how they function as nodes in a given World and as objects of desire entailing subjective capture. A concept like “the Real” or “immanence” or x-buddhist “things as they are” is valuable precisely because it enables us to better discern when that World-fashioning node bursts through the nothing (the not-that-World, etc.) and begins to form an enticing hallucination. The hallucination isn’t even a problem, at least for this non practice. The problem is that the hallucination obscures itself as such. The non attempts to bring this obscuration into view. It does so not in order to eliminate it, reveal its errors, or determine its “ontological status,” and other such philosophical endeavors. The aim is to discern the ways in which it operates as a subject-engendering ideological configuration. That’s all, however, only in the first instance. Ultimately, non practice is innovative in that it requires the creation of new subject-engendering ideological configurations. Because it does so on the basis of the very configuration it critiques and negates, it is easy to confuse this for a reformation or rectification.

    When you assert things like non-buddhism “attempts to transcend x-buddhism,” or “your position is grounded on an ontological truth of ‘immanence,'” and so many other statements in this thread, I think of the famous thicket-of-views trope in x-buddhist discourse. Is it really not conceivable that, again following Laruelle, another type of practice can be performed with buddhist or philosophical materials, and performed in a way that the Mother Disciplines scorn as untenable (precisely on the basis of the very practice that is being rejected)? Might there be something to the fact that non-philosophy has found its most welcoming home among artists and musicians? Finally, when you call me the “high priest of SNB,” I become unsure about what your source material is. Essays on the blog? Mine only? Which ones? Are you mixing up the anarchic experimentation of SNB and the more deliberate theory that is non-buddhism? Thanks again for your engagement, Mark.

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  10. Hi Glenn, the conception of “non” as a tool for critical thinking is great. It is the ideological assumptions you are building in that I am critical of. For example, if the practise of the non is to believe you already have the answer, then you seem to have missed a key insight. I don’t doubt you’ve been over this territory, but SNB and some of your statements make it appear as if you think you have an accurate map (which the “non” should make clear as not possible). It is easy to confuse SNB for reformation and rectification, this applies to those inside SNB as well as those on the margins. Broadening the source material is what I have suggested as a potential antidote to that. A lot of the writing in SNB is intentionally blind to work that is/has been done already (the miscomprehension of social constructionism is particularly frustrating for me). This is probably largely your fault because you can make Laruelle out to be a much fresher voice than he is (not to say he is uninteresting). On SNB there are people busily swapping out x-buddhism for some other fetish, this seems to be one of the results of your theory (possibly not a desirable one for you).

    You would like to make a clear distinction between your theory and what happens on SNB. I really hope you can hear the critique of that conception of theory. The isolation of theory and practise is an example of transcendence in your thinking, as if these are two separate spaces (hopefully you would agree this is a consequence of a particular dualism you are privileging).

    When I call you the “high priest” I am mocking your paradigm in the spirit of non-buddhism. It is a way of criticising what happens on SNB through demonstration. I do sort of imagine you in some sort of graduation gown.

    My take on what we are trying to do is bridging insights of post-structuralism and phenomenalism. That is what the theory might do (i.e. it would transcend that divide, but in a way that is non-foundational). I was hoping you and Daniel would engage in dialog. But that seemed not to work out and your theory has a role to play in making that more difficult than it needed to be. Two people both thinking they have ultimate answers is not a good starting point, but you could play the adult in the room to get the conversation started.

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  11. Apologies to Matthew and Cleo. This is supposed to be a thread on her podcast, which I will listen to tomorrow while on the road.

    Mark, how about we continue this discussion over email or at the blog? Even better, please work your ideas up into a coherent text.

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    1. It’s all good; feel free to do whatever you want. It’s an interesting discussion and, as before, I second the notion of mark putting together a text despite his reservations. That is, of course, if he has the time and is happy to respond to lurkers and vocal critiques at the SNB blog.

      We all know how much work is required to write intelligible, thoughtful, reasoned and coherent texts and it seems almost a miracle whenever it does happen.

      Oh, for thoughtful intelligence dedicated to the great feast.

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      1. Hi Matthew,

        Here is a paper that touches on the issues from the perspective of psychology https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265362087_Non-foundational_criticality_On_the_need_for_a_process_ontology_of_the_psychosocial

        That paper has interesting concepts of “reflexively foundational criticality” and “foundation-by-exclusion” which seem pertinent.

        The paper does not capture the idea of non-foundational theory that I would like to see. But it is an interesting example of trying to deal with similar issues in a practise community.

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  12. Collective effervescence, indeed! What an extraordinary conversation, Matthew and Cleo! I can’t recall ever being this stimulated by a podcast dialogue. The topics around rital that you touched on are as pressing as they are difficult. Of course, my mind kept turning to the possibilities of an intervention by the theoretical-practical concept of the “non.” As Cleo indicated, ritual efficacy–arguably like all other cultural, social, intellectual, etc. forms– requires the weight and depth of canonicity and tradition. And yet…From the very source of “authenticity” streams forth all sorts of regressive forces. I’d love to hear more about how Deleuze, as the thinker of both repetition and innovation–bring something inconceivable into the world, thinking’s task os to create new concepts, etc.–might help us out of this difficult paradox. Anyway, this episode has stimulated so many questions and ideas. Thank you!

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