February 16th, 2011

S.C. Hickman

Philosophy as the Art of War

"Reading is defensive warfare..."
     - Harold Bloom

"No word comes easier or oftener to the critic’s pen than the word influence, and no vaguer notion can be found among all the vague notions that compose the phantom armory of aesthetics. Yet there is nothing in the critical field that should be of greater philosophical interest or prove more rewarding to analysis than the progressive modification of one mind by the work of another."
- Paul Valery, Letter About Mallarme

"We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors."
     - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Pondering the strange byways of philosophical influence is in itself strange; for the battles over philosophical thought can at times seem more like the bloody wars of some interminable conflict - one stretching back over the difficult and encrusted landscapes of our dark heritage, than the disquisitions of individual minds belaboring over the catastrophic worlds of thought in all its multifarious resistance to and defensive maneuvers against our struggle to actualize and attain the real. Reading philosophers is like becoming a secret accomplice within opposing camps of disgruntled armies; listening in on discussions that seem to a layman more like the arcane dialogues not of military strategists and philosophers, but of mystagogues of some new religion of the Mind: one that is shaped not so much by clarity of thought as it is by the hermetic signs and signals from a wayward General spouting his final orders on a battlefield at the edge of the Void. 

Philosophers enter into temporary or long-term alliances, shaping strategies, inventing new weapons of thought, making forays into enemy territory, skirmishing, testing the enemies strength and weaknesses, gaining fortitude through perseverance, only to fall back in disarray and confusion, unable to gain a firm and final victory. Sometimes certain of these philosophers have wandered off the battlefield, disgusted by the shenanigans of their compatriots, retiring to the hillsides - becoming hermits of thought; neither willing, nor able to join in with others, these solitaires, these wild creatures of imagination and inventiveness have soon been lost in the mists of their own feigned intrepidity, forgotten among the black woods of their own despair or happiness, absolved of all human contact. Other philosophers have joined in with smaller enclaves, forged alliances with those of like mind and convergent thoughts, hoping to persuade these others to adopt their favored strategy and rue the day: marshaling new arguments, stirring the troops, inciting them to greater victories through rhetorical excess; while others, have sought a sterner path, have willingly sacrificed themselves, gone undercover and joined with the enemy as shadow agents or spies, taken on the guise of the enemy's colors only to tip the balance from within and discover a way to overcome through turning the inside outside, burrowing within the system to turn it against itself.  Still others have become agent provocateurs, inciting their own skeptical and irresolute comrades and allies, provoking them to errors of judgment and irrational behavior, thereby making them victims of that age old inquisition and tribunal we call the invincible Academy of Tradition. Yet, here and there, certain beings arise in our midst that truly do affect and change the very fabric of reality, who bring with them something strange and weird, a gift: these are those who change the very nature of our ideas and conceptions, that shape our minds and our systems of individual and collective action, and forge new links in a chain of thought that stretches to the far ends of time and back, giving to us all the very defensive tropes we need for a final assault on that age old enemy: the Void - against which all our concepts of the real are a final bridge to meaning. Very few and far between do such lights break against the tide of received tradition, and most are soon co-opted by that very tradition and tamed. Yet, the war goes ever on.  

As Sun Tzu once said "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."

Or, as Paul Valery once stated: "Whether in science or in the arts, if we look for the source of an achievement we can observe that what a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done – repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it, loads or overloads it with meaning; or else rebuts, overturns, destroys and denies it, but thereby assumes it and has invisibly used it. Opposites are born from opposites."

Either way one is either enslaved by other minds - a trace of a trace, or one incorporates their influence in such a way that those thoughts appear as if for the first and last time, distinct, assured, and fully developed; original, devoid of any trace of debt to those hidden others. As Sun Tzu once said: ""To capture the enemy's entire army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a regiment, a company, or a squad is better than to destroy them. For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the supreme of excellence. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence." To subdue an enemy's thoughts and make them one's own, and then to translate them through patient effort into the nucleus of an error exposed under the guise of an overcoming is to attain supreme excellence. 


S.C. Hickman

Nick Land: Quote of the Day!

"Everything populating the desolate wastes of the unconscious is lesbian; difference sprawled upon zero, multiplicity strewn across positive vulvic space. Masculinity is nothing but a shoddy bunkhole from death. Socio-historically phallus and castration might be serious enough, but cosmologically they merely distract from zero; staking out a meticulously constructed poverty and organizing its logical displacement. If deconstruction spent less time playing with its willy maybe it could cross the line… "
     - Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation