Negatio’s Events (An Anti-History) — Hal Odetta

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What if Facebook had always been around, and had been the go-to venue for philosophical discussions? After some meticulous scrolling one can find what the young‘uns nowadays call ‘receipts’—traces of thoughts, conversations, insights, and interjections that are part and parcel of the philosophical process. A click here, a peek there, and what is revealed but the long and fraught journey of this Latin word (and notion): Negatio.

The posts are timestamped with these dates: [1674] [1807] [1943] [1966] [1989]—all from the profiles of philosophers living their lives in (not-that-bad) Infinity. Their locations are tagged all over Europe. It all started in June 1674, in Holland …

[1674]: Benedictus de Spinoza, taking a break from his daily grind of grinding lenses, and writes a one-liner post, one fateful and foreboding day, on the 2nd (certainly not the 1st!) of June: Epistola 50 (to Jarig Jelles; Earle of The Hague): Omnis determinatio est negatio … at the exact moment when … nothing much really happened.

Negatio stops relating to itself just negatively; it is positively asserting itself. (1)

[1807]: Hegel reacts with an angry icon, nurses his confusion for months, and finally—after seeing Napoleon pass by his street one morning before breakfast time, in full sublime splendor—shares Spinoza’s post, but not before attaching on it a rationally-long comment: Phaenomenologie des Geistes.

Negatio, at this point, is now fully affirmed by consciousness.

[1943]: Sitting with his weird-looking laptop in an open-air café, nice, hot milk-without-coffee by his side, and coming fresh from attending Monsieur Kojeve’s most seductive, masterly reading class, Sartre shares Hegel’s post. Like Hegel, he doesn’t repost it before writing his own caption, sprinkled with de trop Paris cafe observations, especially of that poor, innocent, philosophically-indifferent yet singular and also awkward, bad-faith-accused-and-condemned waiter serving him: L’Être et le néant: Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique.

Negatio has learned what it is to socialize with a growingly troubled world.

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[1966]: Lacan takes note of Sartre’s une-passion-inutile posts, thinks them all imbecilic (and, of course, becilic as well) … and he does nothing with them—“pure, pure infantile signifiers not worth a click even from this part-finger of mine when castrated from its beloved hand”, he enunciates. He chooses instead to post a really desirable, in fact driving, photo—L’Origine du monde—coupled/not-multipled with enjoyable surplus quotes and mathemized ideas from Spinoza, Hegel, plus motley other Facebook friends and non-friends … which is now imagined as Ecrits and Seminaires.

Negatio becomes more wordly and ‘inwardly’ in a weird sense: it meets sex, madness, and the formula of sexuation. (2)

[1989]: Žižek, after seeing Lacanian posts floating like any well-symbolized yet still-Real signifiant, starts creating humorous and obscenely-Lacanian memes … but not after studying Hegel’s and Lacan’s posts for a decade … and so on, and so on … using those memetic distractions to lure away the blessed beciles from preoccupying themselves with this thing that should have always already been read by them if they really want to identify with their symptoms: Žižek’s last three major works: Less Than Nothing, Absolute Recoil, and Sex and the Failed Absolute.

Negatio learns to tell jokes, laugh at itself, and talk to people on the street. (3)

Hal Odetta is a pen name. He is an anthropologist who teaches at the University of the Philippines and works with the Manobo indigenous peoples of Mindanao.

Endnotes:

(1) Best resource for the connection/disconnection between Spinoza and the tradition of German Idealism: https://philosophy.jhu.edu/2013/08/23/spinoza-and-german-idealism/; check specially, chapter 10: Yitzhak Y. Melamed, “Omnis determinatio est negatio”: determination, negation, and self-negation in Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel.

(2) For one who has only read (with full alertness!) two books of the Seminars/Seminaire: I can only recommend Book X and Book XX as really worth re-reading.

(3) Alain Badiou (in his Logics of Worlds) thinks these as the two fine and important books of the Slovene School: Zupančič’s The Ethics of the Real and Žižek’s The Indivisible Remainder; I would add two more: Zupančič’s What is Sex; Dolar’s A Voice and Nothing More.

Photo credit: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Benedict-de-Spinoza

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