Philosophy as Confession

My philosophical writing goes through cycles. I experience low points where my exhaustion with philosophy and the project of mastering logos and the Real is made so acute that I fall-back on writing narrative, poetry, or fiction. This fall-back is always confessional in nature. It feels as if I am confessing to the master who has turned away from me, so my confessions quickly turn to scorn. I name this confession, philosophy as confession — it is as if I am writing a secret down or encoding something I haven’t been able to express from a deeper part of my subjective experience that has gone deprived and muted for far too long.

Philosophy is a war staged around the struggle for mastery and the promise of liberation from philosophy itself. The philosopher who has invented something new after having outflanked philosophy is the philosopher who is free. Philosophy must overcome philosophy in order to invent the new. If, as Deleuze writes, we need new weapons in the war of philosophy, what is available to the solitary philosopher that seeks to import his own subjective struggle with its unique social relations and material conditions? What will his life and the way that he uses philosophy to fend off the specter of a life-as-depression, or a life-as-mediocrity mean to the war? How will this confession not become reified identity politics once it is completed? Philosophy requires that he transpose this subjective experience onto ideas and master names of philosophical relevance to the war, and that he not confess the illegal importation of his own subjective struggle.

But we learn early on that philosophy needs this repressed confessional aspect in order to master itself. As a system of schematization, or of organizing thoughts and concepts, philosophy neglects to tell you that its schemas become saturated with thought. But what if the very thing that outflanks philosophy is a refusal of philosophy at the point at which thought creeps along with little hope, and great inertia?

The paradox of this situation is that such a stultifying condition of thought is what jolts the philosopher out of philosophy and into a freer, albeit more precarious place.

This death of philosophy, not as mastery or traversal and triumphant parasitism, but the death of philosophy as an act of refusal. This is where confession arises. Philosophy would like to think that when it stultifies, it creates a new connection to some other philosopher, to some other master name, or that it makes a cross-connection between one schema to another. Philosophy would like to think that it produces new masters that create new schemas or sub-masters that show how one prior schema is no longer the privileged mode of the emancipation of thought. Philosophy stages a schema of thought so that it can be traveled through and eventually traversed.

But what happens to the schema when the traversal is refused? What happens when the repressed agressivity of the philosopher can no longer handle its lack of outlet? Such a refusal of the subjective dimension in philosophy is immediately thought, not as a heresy, but as no longer the work of philosophy as such. It is thus of no interest. This refusal of philosophy comes about on the side of weakness, and not on the side of truth. It should be clear by now that the philosopher is the thinker who finds a constant need to suture thought to philosophy itself. The notion being that such a suture presents the only source of liberation that philosophy is able to posit or even think.

Philosophy sets a high bar for emancipation when it thinks of liberation as necessitating such a passageway through philosophy. It is commonly held that the truly original philosopher has performed a parasitic operation on his master, as well as a traversal of the thought of philosophy itself. What comes out on the other side of this traversal is thought – released from its encrusted paralysis of influence, etc. But herein lies the great knot and the repetition of philosophy itself. Emancipation of thought becomes rarer and rarer indeed.

This place outside of philosophy is often un-expressible except through narrative, fiction and poetry. When the philosopher makes a foray into this world of non-philosophy, she can only remain there for so long. For if she is truly a philosopher, she will find this place to be limited and solipsistic and will inevitably return to the war of philosophy.

For me, this break with philosophy is always a confessional break. One confesses everything without the aid of philosophy and its several approving or disapproving gazes. One is able to no longer internalize these gazes and self-police one’s discourse when they have turned on philosophy. The philosopher who has turned to the confessional apparatus is like a virgin expressing his disdain for sex, albeit secretly desiring it all the same. Speaking wildly until order comes through time and boredom. For philosophy will lasso you back in, it’s just a matter of time. But while you’re off-range, the confessional will do you good. The philosopher who speaks of his own truths without reference to the master’s discourse is an anxious animal, loose and transitory, but percolating with hidden wisdom all the same.

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