Qua

Since everything is systemically-constrained to positions within the system, everything is diachronically preceded and synchronically surounded by conditions. Stronger theories of metaphysical causality might even go the extra step and identify the thing with its causal determinants. I have nothing to argue for or against this view; I don’t need it, other than to distance theory from it — but neither do I need it to be false.

Instead, I want to focus on the grammar that constrains the dual diachronic/synchronic light on conditions. On the synchronic side, conditions exist, in a flat plane with that which they condition. On the diachronic view, conditions are slight generalizations of what is in any particular click of tempo. This is a grammar that sustains a near-unbearable, splitting-headache-inducing ambivalence. The generic form that satisfies this grammar is quability.

Quability is never really a claim about the world — a metaphysical claim. Rather, it stands for the quability conditions on quability itself. If this ghost of a ghost of a ghost appears to be irrelevant, it’s because it is. We’re always interested in the quability conditions of something else — the most important case being the quability conditions of theory. But let me momentarily quote from an earlier essay:

Music theory is the only way in which the ability to understand flamenco guitar music can be decoupled from the indefinitely specific experience of gitano jerezano life. But note how music theory refrains from demoting the qua to an in facultatem — literally any music theorist will tell you there are indefinitely many theories of the valuable ways to arrange musical sound. This is how the civilizational achievements of guitarra flamenca can be conveyed as quability conditions. Despite his payo (non-gypsy) condition, Capullo de Jerez proves himself by fire (and not by theory) quable to gitano flamenco. It’s not that Capullo can be proven adequate to flamenco, it’s that the numinous formula of the duende (the diabolus in musica that at critical moment takes over an artist’s soul in Andalucía) is verified true by him.

This is also why theory can (apparently) only be expressed by means of clairvoyance. Theory is set up in a way that it can never be made adequate to truth-value criteria from anywhere else. Instead, the world itself needs to be verified by theory. But wait, this is not a solipsistic “chroma idealism” that claims the world to be populated from theory. Instead, it’s the limit case of the standard tactic of theory-building which is: replace concrete events by their quability conditions so we can report on Deleuzean eggs — on [cross-]potentialities and machinic phylae.

Yet this discomfort with the pretense that theory verifies world shows that even theory is brittle at its ends, frazzling and splitting. Theory escapes axiological domain, yes, and this is why we must work the whole time on the quability conditions of theory. These come to the limit case when q-theory does end up verifying something of the q-world: General Axiology.

Of course, most of the fun is in the liminal space between the drudgery in which language chases after fact like a dog attacking its tail — in which we might get caught discussing who’s been a meanie in the recent Israeli-Palestinian splozzat, and the ultimate wisdom of ultimate wealth that’s General Axiology. For starters, we should talk about violence: whether it’s still the same from Nebuchadnezzar to Shimon Naveh — and what is in the quability theory of new forms of violence (and note how the division-by-zero limit case of nuclear holocaust has passed us by and we keep throwing firecrackers at each other).

At each moment the point is not to effect change in whatever we’re discussing, but to move toward general axiology. But knowing just how to not effect change can be such a source of power.