“A Brief Essay…” published at The Blasted Tree

Today I’m thrilled to announce that an essay I previewed a few months ago on this blog, “A Brief Essay Against All Murder, and the Death Penalty”, has been published by my friends over at The Blasted Tree. You can read the essay on their website here.

The essay itself was originally written in my journal, then posted to my blog, dating February 11th. By ‘the essay itself’, I mean the essay not including the postscript, which is now included in full in the publication by The Blasted Tree.

As the postscript itself indicates, I continue to hold that the essay itself is self-sufficient as an argument against the question set forth by its context, namely that expressed by its title.

Another excerpt.

The title of the essay provides the reader with an approximate thematic summation of the essay’s content. In doing so, the title also offers a sufficient, and possibly necessary condition, for the rendering of a context in which to situate the exact sense of the essay itself. Along with the creation of this context, naturally I take it that the body of the essay itself is a simple sufficient condition for the comprehension of the content of the essay. That is simply to say that the essay is what it is, simply. Taken together, the title and body enjoin a further sufficient condition stating their conjunction as a simple condition of their own comprehension. All of this is to say that the postscript is entirely an afterthought, and a clarification. Strictly speaking, I take it that there is nothing said in this postscript that is not said as such in the essay itself, taken together with its title, which situates one’s reflections about the essay’s content. This postscript is only an extended reflection. Its eventual conclusion is none other than the unresolved question already set forth by the essay itself. It is exactly for the reason that this question is, necessarily, simply unresolved, that justice at the limits of its means of implementation – where it finds itself – finds itself without ground.

One would possibly be expected to give an argument as to what makes a title a sufficient condition for the rendering of a context for an essay, as well as what makes the body of an essay a sufficient condition for the resolution of its content. For the condition of the claim that each of these taken together enjoins an understanding of their conjunction, self-sufficiently entailing a comprehension of the work as a whole, seems to rest on these. Minimally, for either of the independent conditions stated of the title and body of the essay, one could say that each constitutes for itself a necessary condition for its own comprehension, which is for each their particular rendering of a context or content, respectively. This much could be said of any essay, as any piece of writing takes both its own body and title as at least a necessary part of a complete understanding of what it is said to be, or to be about. A title is an accessory, a maquillage, disclosing behind it a face and an inner working. We are not without such accoutrements, and neither are our writings, which are only our bodies of words.


Infection and the Death of Reason

It’s been some time since I’ve updated my Academia.edu profile with any of my more recent work. Along with some notes for a recent conference presentation, I’ve uploaded a draft paper on self-sacrifice, authenticity, death and the infection structure in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. 

Infection [Ansteckung], for Hegel, has to do with the communicability or speaking-out of the subject, its interpenetration with the other, and its subsequent self-realization as Spirit.

A select excerpt from the paper follows – the full paper is available online here.

Reason in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit binds the ‘I’ to its body. Reason is bound to the individuality of the ‘I’; through each movement of self-consciousness as Reason, the ‘I’ attempts to escape itself, willing, as it were, that the maxim of its action would become universal law (to paraphrase Kant). As such, the individual embarks out onto the world first carrying the law of the heart (the law of his own heart, presupposed as the law of all hearts insofar as they are beating) whose claim to the world is then thwarted by competing claims made by the many other hearts. Beginning with this movement, self-consciousness as Reason learns the self-defeatingness of its individualism. Every movement of Reason is a movement of self-negation; every movement is a death for self-consciousness. This need to transcend itself through its own individual death is a necessary step towards the self-certainty through which Spirit first appears in its actuality. Otherwise than Reason’s deference and anxiety over its own death, Georges Bataille rightly says that Spirit “assumes death and lives with it.”[1] Death shapes Spirit’s universal actuality, imparted in part by Reason. Hegel’s phenomenological self-consciousness needs to watch itself die, in order to self-actualize as Spirit.

[1] Georges Bataille, “Hegel, Death and Sacrifice” in Yale French Studies, No. 78, On Bataille, 14.

captain of the silver team (a sonnet)

never was a piano player but
for keys unlocked in sleepless nights stars of
possibility. never was a star
but i was captain of the silver team.

never came back home very often but
never left much in return. and all that
i have, thoughts of whys, of being and time,
i have nothing, the nothing, to discern.

never was a creature of concern but
for every second that i lived. and now
when the thought of me vanishes, then, when
i wonder, how far i’ll have gone to go.

for never was that it ever will be
everywhere everything was becoming.

#Ghomeshi: or, Justice, God of the Godless

Canadians have had their gaze fixed on the sexual assault trial of Jian Ghomeshi since it began last February. A Toronto court today found Ghomeshi not guilty on four counts of sexual assault and one count of forced choking. (It’s important to note that Ghomeshi has a second sexual assault trial pending for June, this time with only a single complainant).

Justice Horkins’ 26-page verdict on the Ghomeshi trial is available here. I’ve personally had a lot of difficulty thinking any clear thoughts about the verdict, besides just anger, frustration and sadness. This is what most stood out to me in the judge’s verdict…

“There is no other evidence to look to determine the truth. There is no tangible evidence. There is no DNA. There is no ‘smoking gun’. There is only the sworn evidence of each complainant, standing on its own, to be measured against a very exacting standard of proof.” ([131] p. 23).

“The standard of proof in a criminal case requires sufficient clarity in the evidence to allow a confident acceptance of the essential facts. In these proceedings the bedrock foundation of the Crown’s case is tainted and incapable of supporting any clear determination of the truth.” ([140] p. 25).

My thoughts: we need to seriously consider our standards of “truth” and “truth-acceptance” in the science of jurisprudence, especially in criminal trials of this nature. The very thought that there is a concrete, determinate and independently real “truth” to the matter seems, to me, fundamentally misguided. The presumption of innocence – widely considered a crucial aspect of a fair criminal justice system – appears to have failed to actualize the goal of justice in this case. This, because this presumption not only places the burden of proof on the Crown and Ghomeshi’s alleged victims – more importantly, it puts survivors, rather than their assailants, on trial.

Our justice system is as pervasively Christianized in this respect as countless other liberal occidental institutions. Failing to speak the truth, in full knowledge of it, when called upon as a witness, is already called a sin, in Leviticus. Obviously the implication is that the notion of absolute truth, metaphysically, is as distant from us as knowers as God is.

I do not know what is to be done. I only know that I am made sick by the godless, who create themselves in the image of gods, in the name of a god called, “Justice”.

The “smoking gun” Justice Horkins is looking for, as I see it, is the justice system itself. And the DNA he is looking for is only its own genealogy.

When radical therapies are not at all rad.

A class action lawsuit has been filed by a Toronto law firm over allegations that psychiatric treatments administered at a former Ontario treatment facility, involving radical therapeutic theories and practices, constituted a rare form of psychological torture for many patients. Patients exhibiting psychopathological tendencies actually showed higher rates of violent recidivism as a result of receiving treatment than psychopaths incarcerated in federal prisons.

Interestingly, the Toronto law firm that’s filed the class action suit has claimed that the methods used at the Ontario psychiatric facility had “no basis in science”, while a former research director and her colleagues hold that “[t]here is no doubt that the therapeutic community … was based on sound clinical experience and a solid theoretical understanding of the contemporary literature on the treatment of criminal offenders” (Harris et al., 1994). We can be critical of science in more fruitful ways, without maintaining such stringent demarcation criteria.

The methods used at Oak Ridge were based in part on radical psychiatric theories, not unscientific ones. However, after reading some of the former institution’s publications, I can say that the higher rates of comorbidity of certain types of mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia) with psychopathological behaviour does not seem to have factored into the rates of violent recidivism considered in their outcomes data. Moreover, the thought that massive doses of LSD and other psychotropics, extended periods in isolation and sleep deprivation could easily induce schizophrenic breaks in patients, deemed “glib” (op. cit), and resistant to coercion. Furthermore, Harris et al., fail to realize that the comorbidity of schizophrenia and psychopathy is also higher among violent patients, compared to nonviolent ones (Nolan et al., 1999).

Now, let’s just remember that the matter of ‘having a scientific basis’ is importantly different from the matter of consent, and the violent and coercive implementation of measures established in accordance with scientific beliefs on subjects who, by and large, are not in a position to give consent…

  1. Harris, Grant; Rice, Marnie; Cormier, Catherine, “Psychopaths: Is a Therapeutic Community Therapeutic?” in Therapeutic Communities (1994) 15(4), 283-299.
  2. Nolan, Karen; Volavka, Jan; Mohr, Pavel; Czobor, Pál, “Psychopathy and Violent Behavior Among Patients With Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder” in Psychiatric Services (1999) 50(6), 787-792.

Excerpt from upcoming, “Postscript to ‘A Brief Essay Against All Murder, and the Death Penalty'”

Just in case anyone doubts that the essay is precisely that. An excerpt from its upcoming postscript. The postscript is intended both as a defense of the main arguments of the essay, as well as a defense of the essay itself as an essay, au complet.

To the question belongs the time that it interrupts. To the question belongs both the question of its own time, and the timeliness of a someone. This latter, most directly, is what one can say is called into question. The former, the question of the time of the question, would rather be called into the question. How so? Does it emanate from a history, an echo from a paused moment, like slamming on the brakes, or the stinging skull of forcefully coughing with a severely congested cold? We cannot say. The history belongs to the question, and not to the essay itself. Neither does its meta-analysis belong to this postscript. There is always that which escapes the question. Forgotten histories, moments unrecalled or hardly lived in the first place, and tales of violence lost. A cross-examination of these, forced into place by the question as an injunction – that is to say a command – is only prismatic, imperfect as the pure light shone through it, disjointing and refracting, refracted and disjointed outwardly at angles every bit as violent as the violence suffered by the witness. Violence always exposes itself as a history. It is forced to. It is chased into a corner until there is a history given to satisfy the command of the question. A court issues its verdict always as the trial of violences untold.

The one I condemn is always a witness. They are the witness of time, of an entire life and a history. They are its only witness. Without them, time stops. For them, yes, it is true, but this most assuredly does not negate the truth-value of any of the foregoing statements. For they are a light, a unique perspective of truth, of an unfolding delimited by what is opposed to it and therefore shared by me. But the question interrupts this relation, this sharing, lest we forget. And in this interruption one finds, in suspension, a tendency towards (dis)possession. They are a light called into question. A light held in view and perused for shadows, deprivation and lack. We should note that deprivation also bears the connotation of moral depravity, of condemnation under widely accepted norms of justice, whether they be imposed socially, civically or legally. For Aristotle, deprivation (στἑρησιϛ) was deformity: in a human being, fallenness from a rational natural essence and a failure to cultivate a properly virtuous ethical character. Aristotle’s Organon, in this way, is a body of work of Platonic bioluminescence. But I digress. The guilty is a being found wanting of life, which is to their nature. The witness is a light, is all of history. And if she will not speak, cannot speak, or will not or cannot speak correctly (before the court of the question), then the former joins with the latter into a singularity. Without being suspected of the infraction called forth by the question of justice, the witness is the guilty, the guilty is the witness. All lights suffering violence and violently shining out, a reaction to blind us, we who dare to ask the questions, those issued by the justification of the question of justice, and to do violence there either by speaking them aloud or in our heads to ourselves (for we are all the jury, who silently await that we may one day render our verdict). All lights flashing in shadows cast, casting blindness. The only use of the court is that the bodies have left the room. A violence every bit as furious, gross and entangled as if it had been sexual. A hall for negotiating truths from lies, lies from truths, all subsumed by the narrative structure of the question.

Escape Artist

I want to feel as free from my body

as porn stars feel when they fuck:

a performance automatic,

defensive detachment;


a survival tactic.

God sticking the invisible hand

down the pants

of the reproductive machines,

streaming commodity bodies and sex

sells fetish and fantasy:

the body,

a propaganda regime

for Freud’s psychoanalytic fever dreams.

I’m a narcissist,

drowning in my body

to remind myself I exist.

I’m an echo,

shouting after my body

when it won’t let me go.

Go blank in the eyes transcendent,

forcing sounds of satisfaction,

faking, presencing, substanceless,

repeat, repeat reactions;

a desiring-machine’s satisfaction,

staring blankly into the eyes of Being.

An escape artist so inconsequential –

all her audience,

a practice mirror,

like young dancers

partnered with all of their faults.

Body unfamiliar,

the Romantics had the answers

’till the art in nature died.

‘Till this body was so inscribed:

the mass grave of signifiers

with no transcendental signified.

Truth bona fide,

I am infinity inside –

the violence of metaphysics

met with the absent ‘I’;

an escape artist so inconsequential

he’s at his front door again,

forgot his keys,


The category of the subject,

‘I’ am a body have a body

‘I’, tattooed, screwed up,

a smoker in slow motion suicide:

Death, the impossible possibility of,

‘I’, the homeless dwelling,

somebody silhouetted outside by the porchlight, ‘I’.

Such lovely shutters and large windows

and, oh – they repainted the front door.

Want to feel as free from my body

as the lucky who get shot in wars.

Tomb of the unknown soldier,

the most selfless bag of bones.

Anybody’s body

buying back the burial home.

Here’s to us when we’re alone,

the life and the death,

the dance,

the absence,

the nothing that’s left.

Here’s to eyes that never age

and hands that know how to touch.

Dead labour goes to the highest bidder,

his organs were harvested but he’s no quitter.

Body already expropriated private property,

death the only ‘I’ myself that belongs to me.

Philosophy causes cancer:

I spread the more I fall apart;

truth kills, so love’s the answer.

Want to feel as free from my body as Eucharist,

the animal cannibal ‘I’,


a feast for the eyes of the narcissist,


Homo homini lupus, raw meat for the dogs,

an escape artist like Abraham’s only son

consumed for sons of gods.