TREVOR OWEN JONES’ THE NON-LIBRARY (3): Walking Library and Estranged Cognition

Some people are walking libraries, embodying the Principle of Sufficient Access in their discursive competence. In his ABC Primer Deleuze discusses this phenomenon in relation to what he calls “frightening knowledge”. He declares his admiration for Umberto Eco, but cannot separate it from a feeling of horror:

when I see someone ”cultivated” I am terrified…I am just terrified of a ”cultivated person”…lt’s a kind of knowledge, a frightening body of knowledge on everything… Umberto Eco, it’s amazing…it’s like pushing on a button, and he knows all of it as well. I can’t say that I envy that entirely, l’m just frightened by it, but I don’t envy it at all (in C for Culture).

Eco’s culture is a universal competence, having a reference for everything, vast knowledge and erudition, having read everything, and able to come up with an opinion on anything. Deleuze’s culture, on the other hand, is performative:

I have no ”reserve knowledge.” At least, there’s no problem, at my death, there’s no point in looking for what I have left to publish… Nothing, nothing, because I have no reserves. I have no provisions, no provisional knowledge. And everything that I learn. I learn for a particular task, and once it’s done. I immediately forget it.

The Library is based on a Principle of Sufficient Knowledge, as cognitive competence. For Trevor Owen Jones, the Non-Library is not the negation of knowledge: what is frightening is not the knowledge itself but its sufficiency. Knowledge is not to be suppressed in some mindless anti-intellectual movement, but its sufficiency and the associated competence are to be suspended:

This suspension does not perform a taxonomy of operations, but rather is a performance of the immediate and immanent multiplicity the Library itself purports to present. This presentation in turn is not a negation…there’s no exchange with and through the Non-Library, it is a performativity in practice (pages 1 and 10).

Knowledge is no longer reduced to the familiarity of memory, but is estranged into the performance of a stranger. That is to say, the cognitive estrangement of philo-fiction becomes embodied in the estranged cognition of an alien subject or non-ego:

 This knowledge comes forth as the Non-Library, the Stranger-in-the-World of heterogeneous (and thus “bastardized”) practice, discursive performativity, and textual illumination (2).

The Non-Library is not anantithesis to the Library, but an estranged “outlandish” library, insofar as Trevor Owen Jones can describe it as the Library suspended and bastardised. It is no “other place” or “outdoors”, because there is no other place in the Library’s own terms. The correlation is complete and absolute, such that any outside would be an unknowable, untouchable, empty abstraction:

The Non-Library is not the ‘Great Outdoors’ outside of humans’ correlation with a nether-realm of noumena, but the dissolution of the grand epic it is (6)

Correlation, even the indirect correlation by allusion and/or by intellectual intuition that characterises Graham Harman’s object-oriented esotericism, remains idealist even when it posits a Great Outdoors as requisite of its thought, thus reducing it to a “nether-world” of invisible noumena, whose very utility is unfortunately also invisible. The grand narrative of correlationism and of its overcoming is an intrathetic epic that can only be escaped by its dissolution into the dark materials that surround it, and out of which it is made. Its very Structure presupposes while denying the “dispersal of shadow inside and outside of Text, texts” (6). Gnosis sees these dark matters as shards of light, but a diffuse polycentric light having no need of a central unattainable Sun.

Note – for the notion of intrathetic correlation see here.


TREVOR OWEN JONES’ THE NON-LIBRARY (2): Estranging The Cavern or Renewal vs Withdrawal

The Library is illusion, containing totality and difference as each implying the other, in an amphiboly with no outside:

What the Library sustains has always been illusion, but in this illusion it has found its material basis in treating information and knowledge in amphiboly (5).

The Non-Library is not the negation of the Library, but its suspension into newness. The Outside to such an amphibolous object which seems to include its own opposite as part of its very constitution is not elsewhere or elsewhen (in a quantitative difference of location), nor even elsewise (in a qualitative difference of manner). As we have already said the Non-Library is Erewhon, or nowhere as “now-here”:

the Non-Library is, in fact, the New Library. The Non-Library is where known things are never learned and is here, now (2).

Deeper than any opposition or antagonism, Trevor Owen Jones invokes an agon of the Library with this other version of itself, which includes both light AND shadow. Going outdoors into the Light, leaving the Library for its constituted Other, is the futile Platonic gesture of leaving the Cavern for Transcendence, i.e. for a larger Cavern promoting the illusion of its outsideness. Better to admit that the Outside is immanent, in agonic, rather than peaceful, coexistence with the inside.

Some have called this inside “correlationist”, but as Katerina Kolozova has shown, this concept too hides an agon. Intrathetic correlation (as for example Meillassoux uses the term) relates to an illusory Outside, epistemologically and/or ontologically constituted by the discourse of the University, wherever it may be found. Extrathetic correlation (such as we find for example in Laruelle) refers not to an elsewhere, but to a now-here othered and estranged. Intrathetic correlation is associated with a doctrine of abstraction and withdrawal, whereas extrathetic correlation primes abundance and renewal.

Strictly speaking the doctrine of strong withdrawal makes invention impossible, impedes radical newness, and pursued logically leads to the denial of all relationality, and thus of time itself. Renewal is tied to the abundance of the Real and to our resistance to the monist Icon of the Count-as-One:

To resist this Icon is less of an effort of withdrawal, but is rather an effort of renewal; this renewal itself is less revelation or salvation and is instead invention, artifice, and poesis (49).

Resistance is not withdrawal and critique, but the effort of plurality and renewal. The illusory move out of the Cavern sometimes takes the form of transgression, but even this term hides an agon. Deleuze and Foucault have shown how transgression to can be intrathetic, posing a rule or norm at the moment of espousing its other. Such is the so-called “Oedipus” complex, which has nothing to do with Oedipus and everything to do with Freud’s own incestuous longings and obsessions. This whole thematics maintains and elaborates a set of binary oppositions established on the subordination of difference to homogeneity. Resistance comes first, according to Foucault and Deleuze. One must begin with heterogeneity, and not try to attain it by starting from homogeneity and merely negating it.

TREVOR OWEN JONES’ THE NON-LIBRARY (1): The Disreduction of Information into Abundance

NON-REVIEW OF “THE NON-LIBRARY” (downloadable for free here):

By now we all know that the prefix “non-” does not convey the negation, but rather the extension, the generalisation, and the pluralisation of its root noun, on the model of non-Euclidean geometry. But, while true, this knowledge is merely a preliminary, superficial apprehension. The “non-” does not just add more of the same familiar stuff – it involves the radical defamiliarisation, the “strangification, the estrangement of the domain it operates on. Another way of describing this operation is by means of the concept of “deterritorialisation”, which Deleuze equates with Melville’s notion of “outlandishness” (cf. MOBY-DICK: “But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature in the transition state— neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enough civilized to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible manner”).

Trevor Owen Jones makes his own contribution to recent discussions about academia and para-academics. Rejecting the habitual terms of the debate as too superficial, he aspires to be a non-academic: “It is the intention of the author to get away from the discourse of the University, permanently” (THE NON-LIBRARY, 1). The book is a get-away car, implying that the author is making off with whatever items of value that he has been able to carry off with him. Bits and pieces of Borges, Badiou, Derrida, Laruelle, Bataille, Deleuze – whatever he can get away with – will be put to other uses elsewhere.

The Non-Library is Erewhon. One may initially aspire to it, or refuse it, as a future or parallel possibility. But the negative capacity (the author talks of “negative capability”, page 6) it embodies is revealed positively when we see that “no”-where is in fact “now-here”. As Deleuze affirms in the Preface to DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION:

Following Samuel Butler, we discover Erewhon, signifying at once the originary ‘nowhere’ and the displaced, disguised, modified and always re-created ‘here-and-now’

The Non-Library is now-here, a here and now under suspension and already estranged. It is thus both mystical and empirical at once. For what is suspended is “the authority of texts over human beings” (78), as embodied in the Principle of Sufficient Information:

The principle of Sufficient Information, which the Library always finds fit to catalog, describe, and circulate, is suspended for the Non-Library (78).

This principle is characterised variously as The Principle of Sufficient Access and Precision (identifying the Totality with the Absolute), or as the Principle of Sufficient Salvation (the pretention to save everything). This Principle of Sufficiency with its will to totality and to total salvation is in fact a principle of indigence and exclusion. Trevor Owen Jones suspends this indigence in favour of a non-principle, that we may call the Non-Principle of Abundance, affirming

that moral explosion prior to content and form’s scission that shows the multiplicity of ‘things’ as they were radically (16).

This movement of dis-reduction, which Carl Jung called “amplication” when applied to the information found by Freudian hermeneutics, was also described by Deleuze in the Preface to DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION:

Empiricism is a mysticism and a mathematicism of concepts, but precisely one which treats the concept as object of an encounter, as a here-and-now, or rather as an Erewhon from which emerge inexhaustibly ever new, differently distributed ‘heres’ and ‘nows‘.

“Getting away” from the discourse of the University is by no means the abandoning of concepts, meaning, and speech. It is the suspension of the academic illusion and of its indigent sufficiency. Not abandonment, but estrangement.