It’s hard to write an autistic history of philosophy. History is such a conventional concept. I don’t know whether I really get it. Maybe history is the product of philosophy instead of it being the other way around. If so, good riddance to the Kantian idea philosophy has to make progress just like science does. Science only makes progress in the room created by philosophy in the first place. There you have it: an autistic thought that makes a problem of its own starting point. Like a dog chasing its tail I have already condemned myself to a project that can have neither start nor end. A project that as well could have been called an autistic philosophy of history.
It’s hard to write an autistic philosophy of history. Philosophy, according to Descartes, is about clear and distinct ideas, but whether there can be such a thing is a matter of fierce debate. Maybe ideas are just a product of history instead of universal and timeless things to be discovered. I don’t know whether I really get that either. It would seem there are as many ideas as there are histories and that surely makes ideas too shady to be of any use at all. For instance, why not say that the tail is chasing the dog? Or indeed that the kidney of the dog likes to swirl. This project could then as well be relabeled as ‘history of autistic philosophy’ being apparently about brains, like mine, that are prone to swirl.
You might fear this may go on endlessly. This presumably is why some philosophers, like Hacking, deny any reality to autism. And one can also obviously deny that, if there’s such a thing, I am it; because whatever the status of the concept autism, it was not meant for a person attempting to articulate why he fails to be able to articulate his idea in a clear and distinct way. So at this point I can only ask for your trust in charitably trying to interpret, with a mind open to the possibility of fusing our horizons, what I’m trying to convey. This betrays Davidson and Gadamer, respectively, as my historical philosophical inspirations – and my conviction that any true philosophy should be a philosophy of trust.
The question for me then becomes why so much philosophy is preoccupied with fear. As an autistic I know a thing or two about fear. And so I have stumbled on my method after all: meticulously collect the dichotomies produced by philosophy and inspect how they’re the truly productive element of history. Making problems to enable new solutions, if you will. As an exercise I start with trust and fear (or certainty and uncertainty for those who prefer analytical parlance) as they are items of a specific phenomenological relevance in my lived experience as an – if you allow me – autistic person.
What was first? This is the question Derrida tries to expose as one that misleads us in the West into imposing our tradition as one that is to be deemed universal. He does so in 450 pages of not always very readable prose. Maybe that is not a coincidence because it is not easy to pull of a Houdini from within a tradition to expose his tradition as just a tradition whilst not getting caught up in a new entanglement (for instance by becoming a Houdini who is caught up in constantly performing ever more tortuous escape acts). Obviously he doesn’t succeed. Succeeding would defeat his point. He winds up saying:
Said differently, it does not suffice, it is not – really – about showing the interiority of what Rousseau thought exterior; rather it is to give as food for thought the power of the external to generate the interior. p. 441 (my emphasis)
The operative word here is ‘really’ (in French: ‘au vrai’). It shows Derrida circling back to the question of what was – really, truly – first. It exposes the universality of that question – the question of firstness. In exposing dichotomies he imposes his new dichotomy: instead of matter and mind, nature and nurture we get thinking and writing, the interior and the exterior, origins and inscriptions, intuition and traces, assimilation and difference. And it is a truly inspiring dichotomy; one which summarizes 20th century philosophy as well as should inspire 21st century philosophy. Let me briefly say why this is so.
This is a train crash. I am the train. Born awkward, sickly, with a curved spine I wanted it all. And I got it. Unfortunately I am insatiable. So I kept on going. And going. And going. I kept on going despite pain in my back. I kept on smoking despite being short of breath. It was my body that failed first but I kept on going until my spirit broke. And then I kept on going because I did not want to admit I could not get it all. Could not get it all my way. It’s a matter of keeping afloat since then. Slowly deflating and realizing I am going under. In no way is this a train crash and in no way am I a train. It’s a sizzle not a boom.
What I got is people I love and what is happening is that I alienate them by what they are perceiving as me acting increasingly like an alien. Neither the one confident to get things done even it it took applying force, nor a one that can just be tranquil facing his bad luck and coast along accepting the force others apply to him. I am a loser. I act as a loser. I feel like a loser and the question is: can they love a loser? Can they love that man in the same body that once ruled supreme and that now hosts the man that just wants to give up? It’s a genuine question to which I have no answer. I say to myself this will be a last blurb of a darkness I need to exit. It will not be. Maybe it’s therapeutic. Then again maybe not.
Here are some facts:
Posted in JoB
Tagged autism, personal, self
“A race of such men of ressentiment is bound to become eventually cleverer than any noble race (..)” F. Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals.
It went well for a while until – after some sleepless nights and doubts that weren’t picked up by others – it went steeply downhill. Deeply downhill. It was 5 AM and, as self-defense, my self was attacking me, I started writing to create the illusion I was talking to someone else. I always try to stay connected to the external world because if that connection fails I fall back on an internal world that is just noise; a ringing inside my ears, a brain buzzing with the effort of making sense where sense cannot be found. I get my rhythm from that external world and that keeps up the inspiration from my inner world. Without rhythm I fall back on a grimness that only wants its own end. I try – here comes the resentment – to convince others to respect my need for rhythm. They want to even if they find it a rather obsessive/oppressive streak in me. They’d call it pride, an internal conviction that things would be better of they were simply my way. And they kind of would be because when I am in flow I am a brute force of nature, a noble and commanding spirit sensitive to even the slightest disturbance of my rhythm. There is then no internal and external anymore – every dissonance is a scream directly picked up by my brain; something I lie awake of. It is beyond me how people have the nerve to disturb the rhythm I invent. They destroy my world and, failing the energy to destroy them, the only thing left is to destroy myself.
This is a piece about the connection between pride and resentment and where Nietzsche got it wrong when separating them and got it right when not separating them. It’s a piece on the pride I take in trying to deal with the power of my resentment.
“Free at last!”, he thought and was taken to a waiting room where he sat, waiting, for half an hour. To be precise: 36 minutes and 52 seconds. He did not know whether that timing was irony or fate or both. Nobody told him. He did not ask. It was all new to him. It was a once in a lifetime thing. On the hour a shadow grew on the semi-transparent door whose milky appearance was being watched by five pairs of eager eyes. They had dropped in at irregular intervals and they had not said a word. Nor had he. Eyes had crossed from time to awkward time. Eyes had then been averted swiftly to stare at the milky door hoping to be free again from this torture of captivity.
The consultant’s door swung open and she said merrily: “I’m Hyacinth and I will be your coach. Thank the Ministry of Innovation.”, the way she said it included the capitalization. The Ministry was to be thanked so we murmured “tandeministrovation” – and she looked at us the way one looks at naughty children who still have a lot to learn. And we had, and only a limited time to learn it in, so “Come, come,” she said, “we have a lot of work to get through today.” We went meekly and took the places assigned to our names in the typical ministerial cleanroom, a spacious co-working place designed to stimulate creativity. I felt a little drab. “Chins up!”, she said, pointing to a whiteboard wall, “Here’s our plan for the rest of the day.”
“In the chain of supplements, it was difficult to separate writing from masturbation.” De la grammatologie, Derrida, p. 235.
Some people say it is ludicrous to diagnose historic figures with autism. They, consciously or not, rely on deconstruction to make their point. The word autism only exists from the 20th century and imputing it to historic figures is trying to accord a reality to it which it cannot have. This is bollocks. Instead of deconstructing (i.e. unmasking) a naïve view of things, it reconstructs some kind of innocent naïveté in which nothing goes wrong except by oppression. As if everything we supplement in this society is foreign to the true nature of it. As if words like autism are intrinsically violent and we need to put on our “original” masks of aboriginal innocence. Bollocks – nothing is further removed from the actual text Derrida has written. It is back to the ideas of Rousseau – as if Derrida had not written his supplement on that supplement. It is a reactionary idea common in progressive thought that got scared from its own conclusions and hides in a window-dressed conservatism.
Let me take one of those wild associations of Derrida – masturbation and writing – and do the right thing to show via hyperbole how autism can be literally traced to Homeros – the first (blind!) writer and how the idea of supplement is unavoidably also that of autism as a kind of mental masturbation.
Diagnosed at 48 I am one of those whom people find it hard to accept as autistic. I find it hard to accept the pressure to feel somehow happy about it. That pressure comes under the form of “now you know, you can better learn to live with it”. At the end of The Bridge season 4, the therapist tells Saga Norèn to finally do “what she wants” now she’s liberated from the doubt and guilt that marked her struggle in life. This is disastrous advise in my opinion, and more disastrous still in the case of autism, and this post tries to say why. It’s a post that runs counter to a certain feeling in autistic circles that you can embrace it and find success in life. It’s not a happy post as I refuse to be recovered by a modern fashion to see everything in the light of success. I believe that is autistic as well and maybe I’ll be able to start to explain why.