Posted by: glue | March 26, 2011

Quale Morphics


Merleau-Ponty is not the only one to use Bachelard’s Water and Dreams as a relay for developing element as a replacement for “substance” in an image metaphysics.  Sartre (M-P’s one-time friend and collaborator) takes Bachelard’s psychoanalysis of things as a point of departure for summarizing his own existential psychoanalysis, in the final section of Being and Nothingness.  In the context of flash reason, we may consider this enormous  text (798 pps in the edition I have) to be a philosophical analysis of the implications of the epiphany dramatized in the novel Nausea.  Sitting on a park bench, the protagonist receives the event of Being, of Dasein (there is, es gibt, il y a) recognized in a tree root.  The material quality (and “quality” is the operant term) associated with the root is viscosity, stickiness.  The term used in B&N is visqueux, and the translator notes his choice of “slimy” could just as well have been “sticky.”  Sartre’s phenomenology is on display here, in his claim that such qualia are ontological, constituting objective revelations of what is there, of being-in-itself.  Being-for-itself (consciousness, the cogito) becomes what it is, self-aware of its own project, its passion, its direction, its intention within a situation, through the appropriation of qualia.  It is the effect of extimacy, of poetic correspondences central to flash reason.

The evidentiary effect for me is augmented by the conductive dimension of the relationship between the theory and its example in Sartre’s argument.  It begins with the fact that Sartre’s ontology is grounded in taste, literally, using one’s preferences in flavors to note the axis of attraction-repulsion (pleasure-pain), the aesthetic axis, constituting the measure.  The claim is not that being-in-itself has the same feeling for everyone, but that Sartre’s first-person undergoing of Being occcurred through his repugnance for stickiness.  The relevance of this argument for me is not only scholarly (the elaboration of another instance of the categorial potential of “element”), but because one of the primary examples Sartre gives of a viscous substance is “pitch,” or pine tar.  “A [viscous] substance like pitch is an aberrant fluid” (774).  An implicit link between Nausea and B&N is the fact that pine tar is usually produced through the processing of pine tree roots and stumps.  The term “gluey” (my signature) even appears in one description of this metaphysical element.

The instructions for flash reason become clear in the context of consulting (the EmerAgency).  The Accident of the Superfund site in Gainesville (Cabot Koppers) that is the test case for my experiment, involves precisely pine tar (pitch), produced at the Koppers site since 1911, for the treatment of wood.  Paul Virilio advises us to treat the Accidents in our consultations as a sign, expressing the intersection of literate metaphysics with the emergent ontology of technics:  the Accident is an intersection of culture and technics, revealing an electrate measure of the Real.  The instruction is to look in your event, the field of the accident, for the quality of the material you recognize.  The conductive vortex in my experiment joined the Koppers pine tar with Sartre’s ontology, but the instruction is “identify your quality.”  This quality is the sign, or rather, the intimation.  It is not sent, but received by the addressee.  This logic of quale morphics (arts equivalent to quantum mechanics) is under construction.


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