The “Zero Point” of “Madness” and “Monstrosity” or The American Philosophical Ramblings from the 1990s – APR90s


There’s nothing like a simple sentence and a simple message.

And then again, some people love to be obtuse. When we let them, some people just don’t know when to stop. People like to yap; especially academics.

Once in a while, I dare myself to open up a book from the 1990s by this or that thinker who wanted to write like Jacques Derrida. I knew a few of them. They wanted to write and speak like him but, since they were American, they wanted to be daring and mimic him with an American accent. What would sometimes happen, however, was a language that went on and on without style – in short, American Philosophical Ramblings from the 1990s – APR90s.

Don’t get me wrong. The content is interesting and worthy of discussion, but the rhetoric destroys it all. And, the blindness of the writer to the train-wreck makes it…comical

Here’s one. To protect the innocent, I won’t say who the professor was:

I am not happy that mythmaking serves the machinations of power and money; but I know that myths challenge each other for domination and that we suffer in the present not because we tell stories about the world but because one story – the story that says capitalism and the market are the answers to all problems that matter – has enervating our storymaking and mythmaking talents.   It has, in fact, done what all myths are designed but seldom do: Convince us that it is not an intellectual totem but a testament to the essential truth and reality of things, and that what opposes this reality and truth is always the work of spin doctors and Hollywood producers hired to make us believe in “make believe.”

Here’s another sample from another author. He writes on madness, not in a mad way, but in a note-taking kind of way. He write-jots. And, after a while, this rambles. (Don’t get me wrong though, I love madness just like anyone else, but what happens when madness is communicated by way of the write-jot?

The relation of madness to reason seems one of oppositions, at least in Descartes; against the plain truth of facts, “they” persist in their follow; madness against reason. We equate madness with unreason even as reason evinces its own madness. This madness, belonging to reason, seems worlds apart from madness “itself,” though Foucault speaks of such a madness, of a madness “before” reason’s regulation: “We must try to return, in history, to that zero point in the course of madness in which madness is an undifferentiated experience, a not yet divided experience of division itself”(Madness and Civilization, p. ix). How, Derrida asks, may we confront this “zero point” of madness, madness itself? How can we think this zero as a confrontation with madness, with its monstrosity, represent our greatest achievement, however, impossibly.

Do we, in reading this write-jot, experience the “zero-point” of “madness” and “monstrosity”?

I can’t read this without smirking. It’s as if he’s saying: this is madness, this is, monstrosity, it “represents our greatest achievement.” But, as he asks, how can we think of this as “our greatest achievement?” That’s the irony. It’s ridiculous to believe that this rambling, this monstrosity, which can’t, ultimately be named, but jot-sketched, is our “greatest achievement.”

And perhaps this is the “doubleness” that Paul deMan saw at the heart of irony: the “irony of ironies” which effaces intersubjectivity and subjectivity and leaves you with “nothing” and a “consciousness of madness.”

And, as deMan well-knew, this consiousness is the conscisousness of one’s blindness to what one says. But the true point of doubleness and the irony is to the following distinction: To say and not hear what one is saying is to be comical. But to know and hear that it is a meaningless rambling is….tragic. For deMan, it is “the consciousness of madness.” It is, literally, for him, the “zero point.”

I’m not so sure these APR90s knew this. But, I may be wrong. Maybe they knew that they were rambling off monstrosity which, of course, cannot be thought. But can it be said?

The only way to know is to ramble on, and as you ramble, who knows, maybe you can experience the “Zero point” of “madness” and “monstrocity.” Now: is that funny or what?

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