“everything can be said”

Over at New APPS I’ve posted on the night Kafka wrote his story, “The Judgment,” which marked a turning point and watershed event in his life as a writer. I use this ‘event’ to contrast my understanding of “Ideas” as multiplicities and concrete universals with Badiou’s understanding of the event. In short, when Kafka refers to ‘everything being said,’ or when upon reading “The Judgment” to his friends and recognizing what he called ‘the indubitability of the story,’ I take this not to mean that he has said, in a clear and determinate manner, everything that can be said; rather, the story contains everything that can be said in the same way that white light, as a concrete universal (and as discussed here), contains every color. This is the indubitability or haecceity of the story. At the same time, however, the possibility of saying everything skates dangerously close to saying nothing, to slipping into chaos or, in an effort to stave off the chaos, slipping into cliché and well-worn formulas. Kafka was well aware of these dangers, as was brought up in the comments to my post.

7 thoughts on ““everything can be said”

  1. I may be missing the deeper point here but while I’m sympathetic to the idea that we are possessed by impulses/events/moods that exceed our ability to grasp/express them I worry about this idea of a story containing “everything”, seems to be along the line of biblical hermeneutics and some related ideas of ‘depth’, as opposed to our ability to make anything out of a text/experience , nothing being categorically outside of what we may mis-read back into the text making it anew. have you read Rorty’s review-essay on Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum?

    • Thanks for this Dirk. Although the biblical hermeneutics line of thinking may indeed be an appropriate way to think of Kafka’s understanding of his efforts at writing – as was brought up in the comments at Newapps – it’s not ultimately where I’m going with this. Put briefly I’m making the Spinozist claim that everything is intelligible, that there is nothing that exceeds our grasp or that is in principle unintelligible. That said, however, a lot turns on what is meant by being intelligible, and for me the stress is to be placed on becoming intelligible, or on learning, rather than on intelligibility itself, and thus for everything to be intelligible does not mean that one has clearly delineated and set forth in a determinate manner everything. This is certainly not what the third kind of knowledge is for Spinoza for as finite minds with finite capacities we cannot do everything, cannot lay everything out or determinately say everything. Ratther, I think that what Spinoza was up to with the third kind of knowledge was in understanding the process whereby the finite expresses the in-finite and indeterminately determinable nature of God as substance. Similarly I think philosophical concepts reterritorialize upon Ideas understood as a concrete universal, and these Ideas are the concrete condition for the possibility of every determinate thing that can be said, thought, or made intelligible. This Idea does not predetermine what will be thought or made intelligible for in itself it is indeterminate, or it is the Difference in-between the determinate, like white light is the difference between the shades (to borrow an example from Deleuze). Similarly again for the indubitability of Kafka’s story – the determinate plot and structure express the in-determinate haecceity or Idea of the story, and it is Ideas with a capital “I” that make possible everything that can be said.

      This is all to brief, I realize, and I need to clarify the relationship between Ideas as in-determiante concrete universals and the determinate concepts, stories, etc., that express and articulate them. I have done this in a limited sense in some of my posts, but to do it justice requires a more extended essay, which I’ve got and will be presenting in copenhagen (and posting at my website soon thereafter).

      Thanks again for your comment and no, I’ve not read Rorty’s review of Eco’s book, so thanks for drawing it to my attention (I imagine you were thinking of Eco as one who sought to say everything in their narratives! 🙂

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