(Most of part I is unintelligible without recourse to the near entirely of asemic horizon so far. I’m really sorry. Part II is more readable, but less rich if you’re not hip to the whole stuff.)
Trad existentialism from Heidegger to Bojack Horseman is axiologically founded on contingency. As described in the theory of interfacticity, this contingency spreads itself in parallel universes of being and non-being. But the fact that interfacticity has an existential flavor (i.e. the Heidegger story, rather than the stark formal void-ness of the Tarski story) does not point to an essential existentialism to it — instead, it’ s very, very contigent itself.
Story time: interfacticity was revealed to me while eating an ice-cream cone. Why not a plastic cup? Because eating ice-cream on top of an edible cone exposes the ready hazard of having the ball-shaped treat tip off and splat on the floor. It is risk, in the same way of the matador’s deliberate self-endangerment. That these hilariously different exposures can be characterized in the same terms exposes how risky the careless use of the word “risk” is. But the ice-cream story was clear to me — what I was enjoying was not only the “live” cone but also the “dead”, thrown-on-the-floor one. Authenticity meant to bring oneself in equanimity toward the ice-cream’s being and non-being at once.
(Cue in Zizek’s voice sample) In a perverse way, that’s the whole core of what we’ve been calling “the Heidegger story” (and we’ve disclaimed multiple times any semblance of scholarship — this was but a nickname, like the Tarski and Emerson stories). As a lived-in experience of the thing-of-the-world, it didn’t even need theoretical status — it came in, readymade, as a constraint on the ambient conditions of truth.
Long-term readers will notice how suspended and underdeveloped the Heidegger story was. At one point we promised a closer look at the “metaphysics of the Situation” to selected readers. But this never came through — an account of the gaps between the lived-in concept of authenticity (and its full generalization in interfacticity) and the world of theory. The reasons for this are more or less obvious: the breakthrough that was General Axiology (and not just the asymptotic theory as recently, incorrectly claimed) abstracted away being itself — let alone “non-being”.
But then we arrived at the Hölderlin story.
Our Hölderlin inversion was silently added to the blog’s masthead months ago. There was no natural way of addressing it in the then-ongoing sequence of texts. Surely enough, the early blog engaged in what was then termed freestyle soteriology, but over time soteriology (das Rettende) became the very hinge that holds contingency together. Yet what the Hölderlin story really brought to the table was a dark turn away from the equanimity of interfacticity (still a lived-in existential algorithm that figures in the ambient conditions of truth) to the kyklos-supported situation of Danger (die Gefahr).
In a perverse way (and temporarily suspending its specific, kyklic temporality), Danger is contingency squared. It’s contingency, but as presented to (and violently modulating the previous equanimity of) interfacticity. Danger lurks behind Salvation because equanimity begets risk and death.
Recover the fact that Danger takes place in tempo (and not necessarily in existential-psychological temporality) and the realization fully compiles: we’re in such grave trouble.
Theory (in general but moreso past the axiological turn) keeps disclaiming and suspending and abstracting away the roughness of real terrain. The fair (and even critical, to some points of view) question we’ve been dodging, therefore, is: what exactly is at stake here? The fair, if much too abstract, answer we’ve been giving is: General Axiology. But to the extent that General Axiology is infinite bliss, it cannot sustain the Danger that its soteriological status necessitates.
This may well be the most succint definition so far: General Axiology is the final defeat of the Hölderlin story. But this happens within conditions (and with consequences) that are infinite. The bad grammar and lack of proofreading that characterize this blog are, contrariwise, the proof in the pudding of finitude. And if the eschatology we’ve designed is to take place (gradual steps to ultimate genericity followed by the switcheroo), it happens at the cost of shrinking finitude (as we’re able to say less and less about very generic things).
This is, then, the Danger of theory, lying behind Salvation: abstraction can never pave over the path to infinity. This makes the demotic story of General Axiology critical to the meaningful growth of theory — we need to help people get laid and make money.
One way to sink our teeth into the demotic story is to build an ashram. But how the hell does one start an ashram? The other is ultratechnology (in the broadest of meanings of the word). In both cases we need to foreground the nightmarishly complicated interaction between feedback loops an interlocking variable tempo structures.
And there it is — the Danger; the devil taking its dues. We’ve grown this thing by deferring everything that seemed too complicated to be worthwhile; but if the ambient conditions are to mean anything, they at least mean that la verità è nei dettagli. Accepting this leads us to realize (remember: to bring back from reality) the grander vision of the role of theory (and not just “asemic-horizon-theory”) — to set the complexity of the world in full view.
Maybe this can be accomplished with scenarios of ecstasy. But maybe not. The unspoken psychological premise of the eschatology (infinite wisdom, infinite bliss) was that people carry a widespread and mostly unmet desire for freedom. Maybe people want to chatter about freedom, but don’t actually want it.
(Has anyone ever seen pornography featuring radical freedom? There’s always someone who intensely enjoys their surrender.)
The Hölderlin story leaves us two alternatives: abandon all soteriology (and live in abject degeneracy) or find a Salvation whose hidden Danger is tolerable. Call it second-order soteriology: we call (in prayer) whomever is in charge to deliver us from Salvation. Don’t be fooled by the religious language: the clear and urgent demands of second-order soteriology should be actively lived-through by, say, oil-rich countries must continually practice if they want to avoid what happens to oil-rich countries in the modal case.
So how does one obtain second-order soteriology? We should always be aware of the Danger, but Salvation is always obscuring our view. Here I want to question the Hölderlin story (which ultimately means questioning myself): always? Salvation is intrinsically a promise — but what if this promise is Danger itself? This isn’t Absolute Idealism, this is war. To quote from a prominent rabble-rouser,
I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor food; I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death.
In this promise, Salvation engulfs Danger. It therefore makes sense — war is not the continuation of diplomacy but the ultimate source of meaning. Therefore the very real Danger mixed up in all this messaging (namely that your warlike heroism has a double in the diplomacy-like effects achieved by state strategy) disappears. I mean, listen (literally; there is a podcast) to someone like Jocko Willink describe the glory of the 2000s Iraq war — a glory that fails to be crushed by the generalized bogosity of both motives and consequences that surrounds it.
But this warlike glory is also flanked by a Danger of its own: namely, that the ultimate meaningness of war requires an axiology-structure collapse after which there are only good-guys and bad-guys left. The intense solidarity of closely-knit teams like Jocko’s platoons is indeed something very akin to general axiology — but they’ve been cheated of the real thing; they’ve been given meaning but not purpose.
There are more optimistic examples — when oil-rich countries set up sovereign funds, for example — but Jocko’s war alone serves as proof that behind second-order salvation lies second-order danger (at least sometimes). Second-order soteriology is a power tool — it can torch your axiologies in literal seconds if you don’t have the presence of mind to entertain what we’re doing now: third-order soteriology.
So how can you use third-order soteriology to have sex with more, better-looking women (a common demand by straight males; this isn’t usually on top of the agenda with females), make more money, attenuate those bags under your eyes and, more generally, to hop on the demotic train to general axiology?
The operational word (because everything operates in it) is tempo. To the extent that the world (and not just the thing-of-the-world) is a thing, it is a thing out of synchrony. You can make money as a payday lender by exploiting a kyklic arbitrage between your funds and the victim’s unplanned shortage; in an organized, non-mafioso form, this gap is called maturity transformation and agitates the specific temporality of economic crises in general.
This is also the morality of the ice-cream cone scenario: I’m able to enjoy the presence and the absence of the ice-cream because I’m able to eat it before it melts at the base and falls off. Of course, I could eat the treat off a plastic little cup, but you won’t be able to do that with most of what you desire. Besides, while the morality of the ice-cream cone — namely, that there are specific relations to presence and absence to be arbitraged xor modulated xor enjoyed — may apply to some extent to a number of simple desires, the things that you most value aren’t things, they’re a system of interlocking hurricane-like feedback loops taking place at different tempos.
At points like this (maybe after you’ve broken your dry spell, who knows) the first thing to do is concentrate on the vertigo and the nausea and let complexity feel like complexity. This blog was founded on the premise that complex things aren’t simple; that’s what we’re still doing.