Trauma and the Immanence of Eternity

In my previous post I’ve attempted to trace, clarify and briefly define certain positions and oppositions within the philosophical field today. It is my conviction that at the root of philosophical enquiry lies a series of dialectical relationships between affirmation and negation, transcendence and immanence, reality in-itself and reality for-us, finitude and infinity, being and non-being.

In this post I will take it upon myself to further elaborate on these oppositions in the way of establishing my own position surrounding the void that splits as it unites transcendental empiricism and transcendental materialism.

Now, we know that according to Plato time doesn’t really exist and that it is merely a representation of the real, an image of eternity beyond life as we live it. Needless to say it is the human finitude, the fact of mortality that produces human subjects as beings in time. The change of seasons, for instance, signifies the passage of time for humans, but this is an illusion, because the change of seasons doesn’t mean anything for the universe itself, it signifies the passage of time only for mortal human consciousness.

One of the issues on which both Zizek and Badiou agree is that Plato is the first philosopher of the traumatic incident. And one of the major insights of Plato is that an Idea is that which interrupts the order of being. With the emergence of a new Idea another dimension intervenes the ordinary reality and creates a rupture within the process of becoming. If we keep in mind the Parmenidean and the Cartesian axiom that “thought is being”, it becomes clear why Ray Brassier, in his lecture on That Which is Not, pits against this stance the idea that “thought is non-being” rather than being. Put otherwise, the correlate of thought is non-being rather than being. Brassier also says in the same lecture that “being and non-being are entwined .” To my mind the interwoven nature of being and non-being signifies nothing but the correlation of becoming and finitude. It is at this point that the question arises as to whether a dynamic infinity is possible. Is it possible for change to take place within infinity? Can an eternal being not only exist but also change?

As Badiou exactingly puts it in his lecture on Eternity in Time, “philosophy is the conceptual organisation of the relationship between time and eternity.” Therein Badiou distinguishes four distinct conceptualisations of the immanence of eternity to time.

The first one of these is the mystical experience where eternity is reduced to a point in time.

The second one claims that the time is the realisation of eternity, eternity is time itself from the point of view of becoming, becoming is the immanent realisation of something which is eternal in nature. This second one is split within itself and has two different versions: Hegelian and Nietzschean… Hegelian version sees time as the realisation of the absolute. For Hegel historical time is not in contradiction with eternity, the history itself moves in the direction of the complete realisation of the absolute idea; totality of time creates the absolute idea. In the second version of this second approach developed by Bergson and Deleuze, history is replaced by the potency of life and infinity is understood as life itself. The tension between time and eternity is resolved in the constant creative capacity of life itself. For Bergson as it is for Deleuze, life is in time but goes beyond time, life is the name of the immanence of eternity.

The third one is the Platonic conception of time as an image of eternity.

And the fourth one is the Cartesian claim that eternity can be created within time, that truth is a form of eternity in time.

Badiou situates himself within the Cartesian tradition and clearly states that his whole project has been to prove that eternal truths can be created within time.

As far as I know Heidegger’s aim in his Being and Time is precisely what Badiou claims the philosophical task to be, namely “the conceptual organisation of the relationship between time and eternity.” For Heidegger, being in time is being towards death, but rather than simply implying that we will all die and there’s nothing we can do about it, Heidegger’s claim is that human finitude is a condition of possibility for change to take place, that change can only take place within time, and also that we humans should approach death with resoluteness. The fact of our mortality shouldn’t paralyse us, quite the contrary, it should move us in the way of acting so as to change our condition of being in the world. For Heidegger the meaning of death is not simply that we are all doomed because of the inescapability of our eventual demise, but that the thought of death is itself an opening within finitude. Is it worth mentioning that Heidegger does indeed introduce negativity, thought of non-being into the order of being? Yes, it is worth mentioning, but it is not sufficient. For there’s always quite a few more steps to be taken further in these fields where thought and language become one. And Brassier is one of those who have taken some of these steps.

In his Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, Brassier asserts that “thought has interests that do not coincide with those of the living.” If I understand him correctly, Brassier’s philosophical project is driven by a will to philosophize in the name of those who are either dead or about to die; those who live on the edge of life and on the verge of death at the same time. For Brassier nihilism is not a closure but an opportunity for a new beginning, precisely because “to be able to think that which is, we have to think that which is not.” As is clear from the title of his book, his goal is to unbind that which is not, to give a voice to non-being. Contra Parmenides and Descartes, Brassier claims that the correlate of thought is non-being rather than being and the capacity of thought to interrupt the usual flow of things is something to be defended.

A traumatic incident usually interrupts the usual passage of time for the traumatized subject. It is as though time doesn’t pass any more, time is frozen and the subject who has lost a loved one or had any other kind of disfiguration in his/her life is stuck in this frozen time. The traumatized subject usually locks him/herself at a time before that traumatic incident and is trapped within an endless process of mourning. As I’ve put it in my previous post, according to the orthodox interpretation of Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia, this subject is melancholic. But as you may remember therein I also say, referring to Zizek’s lecture On Melancholy, that according to Agamben’s unorthodox reading of Freud’s text in his Stanzas, melancholia occurs not when the process of mourning fails and becomes endless, but when the desire itself is lost rather than the desired object. And when the desire for the object is lost the death-drive intervenes and splits the subject into the two always already within itself; into something and nothing, in-between which there is less than nothing. The subject is henceforth split within itself into that which it was before the traumatic incident and what it will have been after the traumatic incident, into the subject before the loss and the subject after the loss. This also means that the subject is divided by an absolute presence, a non-existent absent object, a lack of lack. In a situation driven by a lack of lack the subject lives in another time within and without the ordinary time of clocks at once. A time in which nothing is present as an absence, the time of the lack of lack is the condition of possibility for the change of the status of the impossible within the pre-dominant order of meaning/being to take place. And needless to say only therein can a new truth emerge, wherein time takes the shape of the space itself.

At this point Catherine Malabou’s notion of plasticity coupled with Adrian Johnston’s transcendental materialism comes very handy in understanding what happens next. And yet again all in good time, for philosophical enquiry does indeed require patient labor, especially when psychoanalysis is also involved in the process of inexcising the simultaneous becoming non-identical of a subject and becoming other than itself of an object.

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  1. Reblogged this on noir realism and commented:
    Cengiz Erdem of Senselogi once again continues his glance at the oppositional positions within our moment of philosophy. From Plato through Badiou, Zizek, Brassier he gathers the threads that shift us between being and non-being, trauma and the immanence of eternity!

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  4. Pure brilliance! I have lived this, and emerged from within this, thank God! Thank you so much for your clarity and synthesis!!!

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  7. You have described this so perfectly. Yes.

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