[-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity

Gregory Ulmer glue at ufl.edu
Sat Jan 9 10:04:02 EST 2010

Johanna Drucker wrote:
> I just don't want anyone to be excused from it.... I mean, it's like  
> not an opt-out category....
Right, but the desire to opt-out, and the intuition that one ought to 
disown complicity, is inherent in almost every metaphysics (the wisdom 
traditions of every civilization, every apparatus expresses a feeling of 
distaste for the world of experience, of embodiment itself).  Plato's 
account of metempsychosis, his dualist ontology sublated into 
Christianity is familiar.  This feeling achieved its clearest statement 
in Western philosophy in Descartes (as I don't have to tell you):  the 
cogito.  It is the fundamental philosophical problem of transcendence:  
what is the relation of humans with the natural world?  There is none, 
Descartes was understood to have said.   That is, Human Being is outside 
of, and dominant over, material nature.  Modern philosophy has attempted 
to refute that account, but the worldview persists in our contemporary  
conduct.  Deleuze&Guattari's insistence on "immanence," and Deleuze's 
admiration for Spinoza as "prince of philosophers," is due to the 
latter's equation of God with Nature (Deus sive Natura).  The model of 
being as "complicity" (as tainted) proposes that life is best lived as a 
quick roundtrip (the quicker the better):  the best is never to have  
been born; and second-best is  to die soon.  Modern, secularized 
concerns about complicity retain an aura of these transcendental systems 
(Sufi poet Rumi:  life is a tavern, and I am waiting to go home with the 
one who brought me).
   Apologies for the shorthand.
To place "complicity" in this context clarifies to some extent why 
ecology as politics and ethics meets so much resistance in practice:  to 
think ecologically requires admission of complicity.  The motto of the 
EmerAgency is "problems B us."

thanks for this conversation.
Greg Ulmer
> Johanna
> On Jan 8, 2010, at 11:38 AM, Gerry Coulter wrote:
>> Given the current state of the globalizing system of promotion --  
>> no, I dont think complicit can be thought of without carrying a  
>> perjorative connotation. It is precisley the perjorative connations  
>> enveloping complicity that have made this discussion so interesting  
>> so far ... especially inasmuch as they have been avoided
>> you wish to avoid binaries but speak of original sin?
>> hmmmmm
>> ________________________________________
>> From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre- 
>> bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Johanna Drucker  
>> [drucker at gseis.ucla.edu]
>> Sent: January 8, 2010 1:04 PM
>> To: soft_skinned_space
>> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity
>> I wonder if it is possible to keep complicit from carrying a
>> pejorative connotation? I meant for it to be a description, not a
>> judgment, that exposes the inevitable condition of participation in
>> cultural conditions as the place from which we each think, work,
>> write, live. I'm not a religious person, but in a way, this is
>> equivalent to acknowledging a form of original sin in cultural terms
>> -- that we are all always part of the conditions we survey. Does that
>> make sense? I'm trying to avoid binarisms that might spring up by
>> putting complicit on one side of a value judgement, that's all.
>> Johanna
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*Gregory L. Ulmer*
 University of Florida

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