Beyond the Face

The Social Matter critique of the ‘Social Justice Industrial Complex’ (whose first stage has already been linked here), isolates the “tendency in human nature to over-attribute agency” as a prominent well-spring of error. In other words, people like to put a face on things — even the clouds — to such an extent that the very notion of a ‘person’ is always already fabricated. Etymologically (and not only etymologically) a ‘person’ is a mask.

As archaic hominids were selectively adapted to increasingly complicated social relations, they were facialized. The human eye acquired its white sclera, to accentuate expressivity, making the direction of attention directly communicative. With the arrival of language, gesture and expression was augmented by articulate messages. ‘Face management’ became a demanding sink for cognitive functionality, in its aspects of performance and interpretation. A new, instinctive, ‘theory of mind’ had begun to believe in persons, and — almost certainly simultaneously — to identify itself as one. This was a new kind of skin, or sensitive surface. From psychological sociality, a model of the self as a social being, self-scrutinized as an object of attention by others of its kind — which is to say, an ego — was born.

The ‘inner person’ corresponds to nothing real. The person, or socially-performed self, is essentially superficial. It is irreducibly theatrical. It exists only as the mode of insertion into a multi-player game.

However we ultimately come to make sense of agency and fate, it will not be in terms commensurate with the person (the face) unless by stubborn self-delusion. Personal freedom is an act, a performance within a play. It has no real depth. All questions addressed to it are doomed to confusion. The real — free or fated — thing wears a face, as an allotted role within the world.

The inanity of Facebook, and also its extreme popularity, follows almost immediately from this arrangement. The writer must assume a face. The stupidity of these portraits, adorning book jackets and news columns, is indistinguishable from their social necessity. Each is already a little conspiracy theory, a misattribution of agency, based on the preposterous monkey thesis that words come out of the face. Don’t take words seriously until you can see the whites of their eyes — evaluate the quality of the smile that accompanies the thought. Thus, everything goes missing.

It is beyond the face — outside it — that occurrence is decided, the plays written. If we do not start there, we are not starting at all.

ADDED: “Everybody’s losing their faces …” (Admin note: I cannot endorse these methods.)

October 9, 2014admin 27 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations

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27 Responses to this entry

  • RorschachRomanov Says:

    You going full blind brain theory on me? Someone get Bakker in here- this post would be Nirvana itself. The commencement of, in Bakker’s famous words, “the bonfire of the humanities” has begun! **insert evil emoticon**

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Bakker’s stuff seems basically right to me, as far as I understand it. (Limited engagement up to this point.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 5:38 pm Reply | Quote
  • Aeroguy Says:

    So theory of mind developed as a useful lie, like the lie that bernoulli’s equation is the reason planes fly (the navier-stokes equation is a particularly nasty 2nd order partial differential equation, not something you can explain to someone like they’re 5). I’m not sure how this is different than how many people already acknowledge humans are deterministic but for practical purposes still treat it as if we have free will. It is useful in emphasizing how the ego, that thing which people cling so hard and elevate above everything, is nothing but an illusion spawned from a heuristic.

    We know communication and behavior is filtered through a social substrate, we see the heuristic evolution bestowed for us, but we are still far away from turning psychology and sociology into a quantitative science. The full equation would dwarf the navier-stokes equation which itself gets heavily simplified and approximated so it can be run in a super computer and get an answer within a decade. This is a problem for post-singularity strong AIs (speaking of which, do we have solid evidence they won’t develop their own convoluted means of social interaction?), bernoulli’s equation is good enough for pilots and introductory engineering.

    The mysteries of Gnon run deep. To know there is a deep abyss is far from knowing what is contained within it.

    [Reply]

    RorschachRomanov Reply:

    For clarification purposes- the question of agency etiologically tied to the ‘univocal self’ and determinism are separate issues- free will may not obtain on account of the failure of the former to obtain while not necessitating the latter.

    Causal necessitating are rare these days.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 6:14 pm Reply | Quote
  • That Rabbit Says:

    Of course, machines also see faces in the clouds: http://blog.ted.com/2013/07/29/seeing-faces-in-the-clouds-thanks-to-facial-recognition-software/ (But, yeah, point taken.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 6:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Beyond the Face | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 6:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • northanger Says:

    The white-of-your-eye’s starting point:

    402=OVER-ATTRIBUTE AGENCY
    402=AMERICAN CONSERVATISM
    402=BELL CURVED GRADING SCALE
    402=CULTURAL SOLIDARITY
    402=DYNAMICS OF EXCLUSION
    402=GENETIC LENDING LIBRARY

    – – – –
    Dick Gregory: Race, Comedy, and Justice
    http://northanger.livejournal.com/447161.html

    Frances Cress Welsing, ‘The Neurochemical Basis for Evil,’ In The Isis (Yssis) Papers: The Keys to the Colors
    http://northanger.livejournal.com/pics/catalog/24262

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 10:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    “Mere puppets they, …”

    Who is to say the superficial is not the real? Perhaps all it takes is a shift in perspective to see the depths as non-existent because they cannot be faced.

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    (

    a little conspiracy theory, a misattribution of agency

    If one is foolish enough to take this step, it’s only a matter of time before one wonders what sinister agency could be behind the eccentric inversion that relegates appearances to the realm of the unreal, whose greatest trick is to persuade us that we do not exist. Cui bono?)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Would you agree that this applies to the Gnostic impulse in general? (It’s ominous puppet-masters all the way up.)

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    Trustful surrender to Divine Providence does not come easily to your gnostic, it’s true.

    Alex Reply:

    http://youtu.be/kQC5bQKPj6o

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 10:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • forkinhell Says:

    Have you scared everyone off?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Still working at it. Friday is Horror Night, so definite opportunity for a further push.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 10:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • j. ont. Says:

    Nick, what is your view on Kant’s approach to free will? Given the transcendental nature of causation, isn’t the deterministic self a dubious concept? I recognize that this isn’t directly related to the post, but your view on selfhood seems (and please correct me if I’m wrong) informed by a kind of philosophy sub species aeternitatis.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The tradition of Transcendental Philosophy through Schopenhauer and Nietzsche sets out in roughly the right direction. As you note, it exposes the inadequacy of both metaphysical libertarianism and determinism, when the empirical subject is presupposed as the (free or bound) agent. Schopenhauer’s correction of Kant is crucial in this respect.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 10:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Bryce Laliberte Says:

    Light doesn’t exist, we only happened to evolve to detect it.

    [Reply]

    wen shuang Reply:

    Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 9th, 2014 at 11:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • Jatli Says:

    Sounds a lot like the Manifest Image, against which I found Brassier’s ‘Nihil Unbound’ a pretty captivating and forceful screed.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    It’s very possibly related by common references, although Sellars is wholly unknown territory to me.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 3:09 am Reply | Quote
  • Dark Psy-Ops Says:

    ‘Superficial from out of profundity’, Nietzsche said of the Greeks, who populated their tragic landscapes with masks. Our own times are profoundly superficial, and no less tragic, excepting the different masks we wear. Under our face is the same fresh soil for maggots, beyond it hides fear and loathing, past that there’s pain unending, and after an indefinite wait death as heaven’s sweetest mandate. It could be a game at a masquerade to describe the masks that we have seen, so I will start with Zizek’s perverts in the Cathedral who make of their face a closet, with a peak-hole to peer out when impotently aroused. They will tell you, these Zizekian faces, hideous and dumb, they only observe a display as impotent as themselves. Zizek himself repulses me to a fault, but he is so blatantly obvious with things his own readers miss them completely, and instinctively worship him as a sublime objectified ideal of castration. Mmm… I’ve said such cruel things to faces my own face shudders in comprehension, and is scared sensitive. Safer to hide unmasked in a masked affair…

    Personally, I’m an aesthetician, and think grammatical persons are a beautiful lie, the face a mask that gives too much away, and how much does gesture betray? Ultimately, our most intimate thoughts are never shared by any but the faces closest to ours, and ‘face’ is too distant a word.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 8:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Dark Psy-Ops Says:

    Safer to hide unmasked in a masked affair… this should be ‘go’ rather than ‘hide’…

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 9:17 am Reply | Quote
  • Dark Psy-Ops Says:

    I hate the internet…

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 9:18 am Reply | Quote
  • Dark Psy-Ops Says:

    Friday night horror soundtrack coming straight to you from Outside In, trend-setter in all things techno-commercial:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwaEOyOw9tk

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 9:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Dark Psy-Ops Says:

    Our laughter is tragic above all, promising deeper tears…

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 10th, 2014 at 9:43 am Reply | Quote
  • That Rabbit Says:

    Interestingly enough, the obsession with faces seems to be deeply rooted in our pre-hominid, even pre-brain plasticity past. According to Daniel Dennett, many animals (and fish) evolved an acute sensitivity to vertical symmetry, a property rare in nature, with the prominent exception of another animal’s face staring straight at you! (See RorschachRomanov’s avatar.)

    There’s even a slight parallel to the “over-attribution of agency to regularities” of nature, in that an especially symmetrical plant can accidentally set off the “orienting response” (basically an all-brains-on-deck alert). Dennet writes that false alarms are the price to be paid for “a fast cheap, portable mechanism”, and one that “organisms, in their narcissism, pay willingly”.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 11th, 2014 at 6:50 pm Reply | Quote
  • drivebyidiocy Says:

    Of course this post prods into eliminitavist right-sellarsian dennet metzinger blind brain etc etc (which is fascinating but part of a much larger conversation).

    If you are interested in modern western conceptions of faciality, Sloterdijk has a chapter on faciality in Bubbles which might be worth a read. I don’t have the book on hand, but it traces from evolutionary snout —> face emergence into the Christian facial iconography which dominated western art. I believe he then goes on to show how when Christ’s hegemony of the face started falling apart, everyone, through their face, in a sense, became Christ. This tracks Moldbug’s universalist protestantism as hyperchrist-manifest-image right into Sellars, and I will reread it in this light.

    [Reply]

    Posted on October 12th, 2014 at 12:28 am Reply | Quote

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