“It is a tremendous act of violence to begin anything. I am not able to begin. I simply skip what should be the beginning.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
It is only when the mapping animal emerges that distinguishable things emerge, hence a diagrammatic representation of the world of humans includes names. Importantly, names as intensive things occupy the negative space of what is now known as the material object. This is especially important for two reasons.
First, understanding words as occupying the negative (intensive) space of extensive things, and understanding extensive things as the lines of energetic consistency distinguished by names, will account for the surprising and very poorly understood inertia of such apparently epiphenomenal things as words. But secondly, as the diagrams of the present exposition now become “conscious” of themselves, our interpretation shifts somewhat. It is not that suddenly certain creatures called humans go around distinguishing and naming the physical things of the world, as the development of our diagrams cannot avoid implying. Rather, in conceptualizing thinghood as a circular energetic outline, we now realize we have only been drawing lines around the existence of named things. The truth is that chaos, energy without reference, is not composed of things; chaos has no consistency. But to get off the ground, to begin, it is necessary to begin with some-thing. This only refers to the fundamental lie that is the presupposition of the map—that, as Lacan puts it, truth has the structure of a fiction—that the move to the map cannot be mapped once and for all any more than the move off the map, beyond the horizon, can be mapped once and for all.
The violence of beginning that Rilke speaks of is simply the ontological necessity, captured from the beginning of our exposition, that all activity, all becoming of that which is not already, must come from some other thing, some thing that already is. And yet, it is impossible to map the origin because the map itself, which permits us to even imagine the origin, is finite. Thus, Rilke’s formula is perfect: the violence of beginning anything new consists in having to enter the fundamentally dishonest dimension of already existing things. If one pretends to begin anew, one is dissimulating that from which one departs, that which is not new. If one simply “skips the beginning” in all honesty, one dissimulates the reality of having departed from the old. Rilke speaks truthfully at the same time he exonerates himself with a dishonesty all the more insidious for being truthful.
What recommends and justifies the model developed here over many less honest competitors, is that it not only explicitly acknowledges the violence of its beginning but it comprehends and thus accounts for it. That is, for us, the paradox of beginnings is neither a navel-gazing point of interest nor a conundrum. For, we began with the paradox of beginnings as the essential structure of thinghood in general. In our diagram of the thing as having an essentially circular structure, as T.S. Eliot suggests, “the end is where we start from.”
What all of this implies is that every thing, every energetic consistency, is already and necessarily wrapped around the word. Words are things, things are words, and their meaning and behavior are one and the same. This is so plain and simple that it would not even be interesting if its implications, taken seriously and pushed as far as possible, did not open up as many possibilities for the arts and sciences as we will show it capable of opening throughout the rest of this work.
Which came first, object or word? What is the order of their logical priority? These are questions for idiots. It doesn’t matter. Additionally, it is very tempting to specify here a thousand and one distinctions between the word, the letter, the sign, speech, signifier and signified. But these are all distractions, so many little useless toys. Let’s speak simply of the word as placeholder for this whole complex of things associated with human language.
What matters is that we have sketched out the fundamental unity of things extensive and intensive. Furthermore, we have, on a certain wager of naivete, begun to organize into one simplified framework an array of scientific models arbitrarily separated and partialized through the history of an intellectual division labor that has never justified itself intellectually. Before drawing out the full implications of our model of things, let us continue to marshall the full range of perspectives that converge on this general theory of things.
Share this post:
Murphy, Justin. 2012. "#7: Not methodology but the realization of beginning," https://jmrphy.net/blog/2012/07/07/26662745326/ (July 10, 2018).