The Forgotten Rituals of Order: Remembering the First Aesthetic Technologies of Politics

27. Oktober 2015 von James Garrison

Vortrag am 10.Kongress der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Philosophie, Innsbruck 2015.http://www.uibk.ac.at/ipoint/blog/1326563.html

Fire! Fire! Fire! This is what Prometheus brought. This is what defines humanity; this iswhat defines technology; this is what defines how the two are intertwined. We humansare human because we, having learned from Prometheus’ transgressive gift, make fire—end of story. (And I’m sorry for yelling fire in a crowded room!) If only things were sosimple. Indeed, ironies about with the myth of Prometheus. The story’s origin is basedon forgetfulness, on forgetfulness of how humanity is to be defined and survive, and thatPrometheus’ other gift is itself forgotten, the flame being so transfixing. This is just partof Bernard Stiegler’s view. He goes on to describe how the proliferation of “technization”leads humanity to a profound forgetfulness, where access to origins is lost and remembering “originary temporality” occurs through attention not to organic or inorganic matter,but to how we organize matter, i.e. how techniques aesthetically temporalize existence.Contemporary Chinese philosopher Lıˇ Zéhòu provides a similar perspective. FollowingConfucius, he describes early sages elevating shamanic practice in the development ofritual, language, art, and music, and how this occurs in the early proliferation of whatMarx calls the humanization of nature and the naturalization of humanity. This is tosay that the ritual, discursive arts are themselves material in how human society survivesand thrives. Being material, ritual practice grows over time, but in a matter that coversitself over, almost like epochal geological strata, almost like sediment. Forgetfulness setsin as habits then sediment in the most basic use of religious-aesthetic-normative technologies, forming something akin to a Jungian collective unconsciousness, in ways similarto, but crucially different from, Stiegler’s view. And so, Stiegler and Lıˇ together showhow humanity has always had an aesthetic bearing rooted in the ritualized organizationof labor and material and why we ceaselessly work to forget this. The contention here isthat Stiegler and Lıˇ are describing the technology of social ritual in similar ways and thatthis is connected with a very particular mode of forgetfulness. Simply put, we forget inorder to survive and we forget that we have forgotten. And this too is in order to survive.Despite the complexity of their works and their varying theoretical commitments, thereis a genuine convergence in how Bernard Stiegler and Lıˇ Zéhòu frame the issue of howfiner techniques with a ritual basis lie at the root of human life (with whatever scope ordefinition) and how such techniques become covered over and lost with the passage oftime. And even more telling, perhaps, are the divergences. Both will be explored here.

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