- Not Nearly Wrong Enough:Epistemontology as an Analogical Re-fusion of Real Abstraction
For the past two decades A. Kiarina Kordela has been working on a singular and difficult synthesis of Benedict Spinoza, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Jacques Lacan. Her attempt is to construct a new form of historical materialism, transforming it into a rigorous monism for which the exemplarily modern—let's say, the seventeenth century—distinction between epistemology and ontology would no longer be able to be considered real. As Kordela puts it on the first page of her new, challenging book: "In spite of the incommensurable difference between ideas and things, their relations share the same structures, and both, ideas and things, express the same substance or being" (2018, 1). Kordela gives two names to that substance which is expressed in the "parallelism" or "homology" of words and things: "structurality" (3) and the "unconscious" (2). The unconscious, then, is not simply a name for non-conscious mental processes or just an a-topic or ex-static locus established by the non-natural fact of language. It is the key support for any account of a "self-actualizing" universe at once secular, rationally accessible, yet without reduction to the concept. It is ultimately Kordela's commitment to a special kind of speculative psychoanalysis that links Marx to Spinoza and allows her to rebind philosophy with politics with psychology and that will reinstate in full ambition the powers of philosophy for our apocalyptic present age.
Kordela is not alone in such a minatory project. To some extent, she is part of a group that might be said to include Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Fredric Jameson, Warren Montag, Simon O'Sullivan, Samo Tomšič, and Dimitris Vardoulakis among their number. The singularity of such a group—if its consistency is perhaps not only [End Page 142] inscribable as one in which every member would be an anomaly—would be the attempt to think, in the wake of what we still, relatively unreasonably, call "French post-structuralism" (that is, Louis Althusser, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and so on), the absoluteness of immanence beyond the transcendence of structures, the materiality of the noumenal as patency within the phenomenal (whether fanged or with grinding teeth), the Unlivable-Lived-Life that is Outside-Within. Nonetheless, Kordela occupies a distinct and radical position within this trajectory of contemporary thought, which she designates with a shocking neologism: epistemontology.
What sort of a word is "epistemontology"? It is clearly the neologistic combination, the fusion, of episteme and ontology. Its import is as a stylistic and conceptual affront: a signifying monstrosity that refuses the division and priority of knowing over being, or vice versa. It suggests, in its very rebarbativeness, an identity that cannot be designated without neologism, that is, an identity-as-problem-at-once-of-being-and-knowing. And such a neologism, especially in the present context, immediately suggests the problems of homology, analogy, and isomorphism. This is, not least, because, as Gilles Deleuze writes in "Literature and Life": "Syntactic creation or style—this is the becoming of language. The creation of words or neologisms is worth nothing apart from the effects of syntax in which they are developed."1 Is there a syntactic creation at stake in epistemontology, a "properly philosophical athleticism"? It is this question that we want to follow here, first by elaborating one of its central operations: the projection of an "homology."
"Homology" very quickly becomes Kordela's preferred word for the epistemontological coordination of words and things. Spinoza's "parallelism," or its less rigorous translation as "complementarity," doesn't quite grasp the identity of the logos that is at play here. "Homology" is a word that has a precise meaning in both biology and mathematics. In biology, "homology" designates the existence of shared ancestry between structures in different taxa, the flipper of a whale and a human arm, for example. Homologies can also function at different scales, from the genetic through the anatomical to the behavioral. "Homology" differs from "analogy" in that the latter designates structures that perform comparable operations despite having no ancestral linkage but are themselves independent developmental...