Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Instructions: Contrast

Ulmer brought up a few points about metaphysics last week that I think it would be useful to revisit here as I search for instructions for inventing electracy within Jullien’s text. First, Ulmer mentioned that we have no need to repeat the metaphysics of Aristotle (i.e. present a metaphysics of the “thing”), we already have one of those. What we need, according to Ulmer, is a metaphysics for electracy which, in contrast to the totalizing nature of Aristotelian metaphysics, operates at a more subjective level. Ulmer: “The claim of Internet Invention is that the wide image is a personal metaphysics.” As Ulmer pointed out in class, Jullien’s extrapolation of shi (propensity, tendency) in Chinese culture serves as a starting point for thinking about the shi of our wide image as a personal metaphysics which we can utilize for the invention process. From here, we are to use Jullien to explain the first slot in Ulmer’s  CATTt generator (Contrast).

Thus, the question guiding this blog post is: what does Jullien have to teach us about Contrast?

As a whole, Jullien’s text contrasts Western and Eastern metaphysics and, as Aaron pointed out in his email, Jullien strongly favors the Eastern notion of shi over the Western category, extrapolating shi’s general characteristics from particular cultural practices (e.g. calligraphy, landscape painting, etc.) while positing the static Western category as a general rule from the outset (13). Perhaps this bring us to our first instruction for Contrast: MOVE AWAY FROM THE GENERAL AND TOWARD THE PARTICULAR.

However, before I move to the particular, let’s stick around with the general for a second. This idea of “moving away from the general” seems like a good opportunity for a conductive puncept between General (Western abstraction) and General (army commander) considering the amount of attention Jullien gives to Chinese military tactics. As I pointed out in a previous post, Chinese Generals operated under the attitude of predestined victory: “victory is simply a predictable outcome of a balance that operates in his favor” (26). Winning a battle was not a matter of forcing one’s will upon the situation, but rather aligning one’s desired outcome with the shi of the situation.

Perhaps the Chinese General is a good figure to “move away from” due to the strong connotations of “victory” and “triumph” associated with him. What if, for electracy, “winning” is less important than “losing?” Another possible instruction for Contrast: MOVE AWAY FROM WINNING AND TOWARD LOSING.

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