Uncanny Knowledges, 3

Toward an Intestinal Thought



In this moment, in this placing of fingertips to keys, I have only images, citations. There is no cohesion of mind, breath, voice. But, perhaps, how better to begin? To annihilate the mind, or rather, to annihilate its computational figuration, to reverse the cybernetic elision of ergodic thought—this is the labour to be performed.


Spacing is ethical. The remove of transcendental subjectivity is not spacing. Transcendental subjectivity is “a hole of being at the heart of Being”1— empty, weightless, frictionless presence, a nothing without potency, radical nihility as the punctual, puncturing ruler of what is.2 This is the for-itself before its factical imbrication with the in-itself,3 the structure of subjectivity without its world, trapped in the brackets of the epoché.4

But, to say before of such a being (the self-determined and determining for-itself, the transcendental subject) is a construction, a myth, an ideology. The for-itself is always already, in its actual concretion, of the in-itself.5 In the “decompression”6 or “dephasing”7 of the in-itself there occurs a “resolution of an initial incompatibility.”8 The in-itself is a “system state” characterized by “tensions,” a “preindividual” reality that is “more than unity and more than identity.”9 Through the ungluing10 of this “metastable equilibrium” the “pair individual-environment” is brought forth, preserving the potencies of the initial supersaturation as structure.11 The individual, as such, is never before, never originary.

The activity of the for-itself is not the activity of an unmoored agency but the “conserv[ation] within itself [of] a permanent activity of individuation“—the very work, the ergodicity, of being.12The living individual is a system of individuation, an individuating system and a system individuating itself.13 The for itself can only be this very structure, the becoming of individual-environment in co-originary dependence and reciprocal generation with the in-itself.14


The measure of nothingness is never null.15 The preindividual, being without phase (being prior to individuation), is “less and more than one,”16 refusing the law of the excluded middle.17 This irreconcilable logic is preserved in the subject as its uncanny, blasphemous, illegitimate understanding,18 its “fugitivity” and “criminality,”19 which is in itself a kind of creativity, a working-through, an “intra-action”20 of the in-itself and the for-itself in their perpetual, fecund hyphenation.21

The transcendental subject, however, always seeks to maintain itself in a unity without contamination, in the purity of nihilating identity. Its power consists in the monologization of its original plurality,22 the erasure of its citations, the reduction to singularity of the “countless ways of ‘making do’”23 and “modes of existence”24 that constitute tactile, haptic subjectivity.25 The transcendental subject refuses the contingency and compromise of “situation”26 in order to found itself in a “proper place.”27


The proper place of the transcendental subject is established in the eye, that power of vision, representation, control.28 The remove of transcendental subjectivity is, therefore, an optical remove, the static positionality of surveillance. The philosophy of such a position is, as a consequence, an optical philosophy.29

In our postmodern “hyperspace,”30 however, such positioning is impossible. The outside is the inside, torqued and infolded, the distinction of in and out dissolved. Being has no outside. The resultant situation is one of contact, saturation, immanence. The in-itself is “glued to itself,” full of itself,31 and the eruption of the for-itself in its midst does not abolish this self-suffusion, but participates in the structuration of it as environment, lifeworld,32 a structuration that is always already “going on.”33

The specularity of modernist space is abolished; its “emptiness here is absolutely packed”.34 Space is not the planar wireframe seen in science textbooks but an “element within which you yourself are immersed, without any of that distance that formerly enabled the perception or perspective of volume”.35 This is a profound “suppression of depth,”36 or perhaps better, an incorporation of depth into surface, the “involution,”37 torus-like, of what is. In this hyperspace, surface-in-depth and depth-in-surface,38 the “individual human” is divested of the ability “to map cognitively its position in a mappable external world.”39 The map is not the territory it represents40 because the organizing “correlation”41 (here, between “internal” maps and “external” territories) upon which this representation is built is an illusion, a useful prop for the ideology of transcendental subjectivity.

Indeed, in postmodern hyperspace, this whole abstract system of exchange, the “imaginary of representation”,42 which previously allowed for the commutation of maps and territories, collapses in on itself. What is shows itself to be a baroque, mobius terrain,43 with spaces of nearness and withdrawal productive in their geometry of specific forms and processes of becoming (that is, forms and processes of individuated and individuating being)—including the semiotic array of maps and territories as different but interrelated “segmentations” of the self-same “pulp”44 or “subject matter”.45 The “miniature theatre” of the mind,46 the so called mind’s eye, that former support of the representational imaginary, is merely a misleading metaphor. And so, tactility succeeds specularity. The philosophy of the eye becomes the philosophy of the hand, which is just another way of restoring philosophy to the body, and so, reinserting the eye in its socket.


The socket surrounds. The monological fortress cannot withstand the onslaught of this “surround,”47 finds itself already embroiled in the “call and response” that precedes it48 and makes a “claim” upon it,49 a claim which is, at its most immediate, the “internal resonance50 of the lived body in the plurality of its self-exceeding relations—social, historical, ecological. The tyrannical, blazing eye is dethroned, its power revealed to be nothing but the authorial and authoritative consolidation of a myriad of skills in a proper place.


Before its fall, the apotheosis of the authority of the eye was the “orbital satellite,” a godhood achieved through the “progressive satellization of the whole planet” and the “instantiation of an abstract and modelized system of signs.”51

This orbital model stands as the culmination of a “European trajectory of technologically mediated navigation,” and more generally, a European mode of space perception.52 The transoceanic colonial mission of Columbus provides us with a historical marker and a political frame for interpreting this technological development. Columbus “used charts divided into the world grids similar to those used today,” which, it is important to note, utilized “the bird’s-eye perspective [that] was already established, a practice which contains subtle but deep implications for spatial orientation.”53 Such map technology, in combination with the instrumental calculation of position, allowed Columbus and other navigators of his time to pioneer and establish a “praxis” productive of certain “perceptions”—an instrumental, calculative, and eventually orbital “lifeworld.”54 The “bird’s-eye position” of the gridded world map became the “from which” whereby navigators positioned themselves in space, a “position that [they did] not actually occupy,”55 a position that made possible a unique historical vantage for spatial, and thereby geopolitical, domination. Though maps can be made otherwise, though the bird’s-eye view is only one possible view, it is this perspective of the world that becomes embedded in the European context, and so, by extension, becomes a trajectory for European culture.

Progressive satellization; the instrumentalization of the senses—this is the trajectory of the eye, its “latent telics.”56 There is “an essential, technologically embodied difference” that is at play here:57

[S]omewhere in history—the eleventh century—someone discovered that certain bulges [in glass] magnified what was seen, and the lens was invented. Magnification, once discovered, suggests a new trajectory. If a little magnification shows something to be ‘bigger,’ what would more magnification show? … Early lens use was slowly adapted to the most familiar use of today, spectacles (thirteenth century) or eyeglasses … In the magnificational capacity of the eyeglass, there is a certain shape to its technological ‘intentionality.’ Magnification selects the panorama in a certain way, and in the process, there is a change of both time and space. My seeing as is a magnified seeing as … the transformation of vision through lenses changes, however slightly, our sense of bodily space.58

This transformation is the “magnification/reduction phenomenon,” a phenomenon that links the lens and the map and the satellite, links them by way of the substrate of the eye.59 What “perceptual instrumentations do is place the observer in ever new positions with respect to the universe, whether at the macro or micro levels”—they remove the eye from its socket.60 Perspective, the subject’s possession of a point of view, its invisible and unassailable proper place, is thematized by the magnification/reduction phenomenon, and as such the spectacular is made preeminent as a mode of existence for the subject.

The technologized, transcendental eye is an inclination, a suggestive structure, a material teleology. In other words, it effects an “epistemic organization of perception”61, an “inscription” of its own abstracted properties in space, a process that will, eventually, render “planet earth [itself] … a satellite,” and the very “terrestrial principle of reality … eccentric, hyperreal, and insignificant.”62 The eye breaks the shackle of the socket, departs from the body, becoming the very principle of modernity: orbital eye, nuclear god, modelized divinity.


And yet, the blazing eye is dethroned by the self-same conditions that give it rise. We seek a new sense, a sense without propriety. What are the skills of becoming, the vectors of individuation, the caverns of intimacy, that we discover here, emancipated from the “metaphor-metaphysic” of transcendental vision?63

The eye fears the socket because it fears the banality, the indebtedness,64 the illegitimacy65 of its origin, an origin without innocence or wholeness, an origin irresolvable to “deathly oneness.”66 The socket tells the eye that it is “fully implicated in the world,” a “cop[y] without original[],”67 just one among a plurality of skillful entanglements. The collapse of the imaginary of representation is a viral collapse—”deterrence”68 gives way to proliferation and acceleration, the whole satellary of models crashing down upon the earth: scattering, swarming, infecting.69 This is the “hyperreal sociality” of our postmodern hyperspace—the hypersurface of individuation.70 The absolute surface, the radical interior of what is requires new methods of navigation.


There is a “counterform” antedating the technology of the eye and its orbital inscription.71 Following the Pacific voyagers, the immanent satellary demands a “relativistic” and “dynamic” mode of perception that has no need for the abstraction of the bird’s-eye and the calculative logic of instruments.72 This mode of perception utilizes “natural complexes,” “swell patterns,” “chord[s]” of sense running through “locally confused” domains, and “parallels” of signs rather than fixed referents to traverse the artificial world grid of the western mentality.73 The intent of presenting this counterform is not to “romanticize Polynesian navigation,”74 to claim the place of the other, but rather to demonstrate that there exists an embodied pragmatics, a tactile hermeneutics, that is already suited for our postmodern situation.


Spacing is ethical because spacing is about being with, and more so, about making with.75 Spacing is the skillful, tactical traversal of a domain, as opposed to the powerful, strategic placing that is made possible by transcendental remove.76 Spacing is relativistic and dynamic navigation.

The tactics of spacing include “reading” and “weaving,” “coalition” and “coupling”, “design” and “play”—all of which is to say that the tactics of spacing is a new textuality, a writing that understands without naïveté the co-constitution of myth and tool, an eccentric, errant “heteroglossia.”77 This is the writing, the semiotic navigation, that the hypersurface necessitates.


Praxes (reading, writing) entail perspectives (hermeneutics, pragmatics). Metaphors and metaphysics are hyphenated. Insofar as our new textuality consists of certain material practices of reading and writing, our theories of hermeneutics (interpretation) and pragmatics (use) find themselves transformed through the inclination or structuration of the lifeworld that our practices of reading and writing effect: that is, the weaving of chords and complexes productive of new geometries of signification, new paradigms for thinking.

The theorization of this inclination has already taken place in the humanities, and it should come as no surprise that the most exemplary theorization to this end has been with respect to and flowing from fiction.78 Through the collapse of the imaginary of representation we discover that our fictions are passions of becoming, experiments in individuation. Literature is an ontological workshop, toying with the generative engine of what is. “Releasing the play of writing is,” therefore, a “deadly serious” project.79

In the play of writing we recognize that the pure communication of the voice, of transcendental breath, is a fabrication: “the unique experience of the signified producing itself spontaneously, from within the self … in the element of ideality or universality” in no way describes the actual operation of signification.80 Given the above proposition of a theory of individuation and becoming, we can conclude that “entity and being, ontic and ontological,” are “derivative with regard to difference,”81 the “dephasing” or “transduction” whereby “preindividual being individuates itself”—which is the very process of “ontogenesis itself.”82 Faced with this differentiating play, the self-consistency of the voice dissolves.83

The dissolution of the voice does not, however, entail the triumph of nihilistic parody. The possibility of parody is in fact a possibility of the modernist paradigm (“modernism” as the loosely organized multi-century period we know as modernity), which depends upon the “existence of normal language, of ordinary speech, of the linguistic norm” for its vitality.84 The “peculiar or unique style[s]” of the great writers find their subsistence in the subject of modernity, their substrate in the eye, their motive in the voicing of that point-of-view. The “modernist aesthetic is in some way organically linked to the conception of a unique self and private identity, a unique personality and individuality, which can be expected to generate its own unique vision of the world and to forge its own unique, unmistakable style.”85 But, as we have already seen, the transcendental subject—the eye-voice-self complex—is an ideology, a metaphor-metaphysic, “a thing of the past … [that] never really existed” (never existed in fact, though actions were certainly performed under its name) “in the first place.”86 The play of postmodern hyperspace must not be mistaken for parody.

If “the experience and the ideology of the unique self … is over and done with … [what are] the artists and writers of present period … supposed to be doing?”87 The coupling of eye and voice, a coupling that elides its own contingency by way of the metaphor of mind, disintegrates. What recourse does the writer, the theorist, the postmodern subject have? Pastiche,88 poaching,89 fusion,90 hybridity,91 magic,92 reparation,93 improvisation,94 world-making95—the fall of the eye-voice-self does, in fact, make way for a surplus of tactics, a proliferation of modes, an excess of possibilities, and with them, a distinctly plural perspective, a metaphor-metaphysic of the multiple.


At long last, we approach the matter alluded to in the subtitle: intestinal thought. We have been discussing the transition from the spectacular to the tactile, the monistic to the plural, the unitary to the multiple, the cybernetic to the ergodic. Having previously critiqued the figure of the “computer” as a metaphor-metaphysic for the mind, it is now time to replace this “material-semiotic”96 framework with a new one: the “intestine.”

Lacan presents an algorithmic, computational language-mind, reducible to the logic of S/s. This logic of mind, the “letter in the unconscious,” the “signifying chain,” finds a metaphoric hold in the figure of the tree: the tree “crosses the bar of the Saussurian algorithm,” “erects on a barren hill the shadow of the cross,” “reduces to a capital Y, the sign of dichotomy,” is an “armorial[]” and “genealogical” structure, a structure seen too in the “[c]irculatory tree, arbor vitae of the cerebellum, lead tree or silver amalgam,” in “crystals precipitated into a tree that conducts lightning.”97 The natural metaphor concludes with a cybernetic passage, lightning as the “condensation of tête (head) and tempête (storm),” the “flash” of insight,98 the narcissistic augenblick of reason (that is, reason as clearing) and not the in-flashing or mirror play of individuation, the coming to pass of world.99 The tree is made the edifice of transcendental thought-language, an elaborate scaffolding for the “historical determination of the meaning of being in general as presence,”100 to which “epoch belongs the difference between signified and signifier, or at least the strange separation of their ‘parallelism,’” their barring, “and the exteriority, however extenuated, of the one to the other.”101 Lacan cannot overcome this epochal impasse, though he certainly tries.

Lacan’s efforts are arrested by his tidy formalism of the unconscious. Noting that this formalism necessarily invokes the “place” and “function” of a “subject,” it is this figure that presents itself as the “crux” of his argument.

“I am thinking, therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum) is not simply the formulation in which the link between the transparency of the transcendental subject and his existential affirmation is constituted, at the historical apex of reflection on the conditions of science. Perhaps I am only object and mechanism (and so nothing more than phenomenon),102 but assuredly, insofar as I think so, I am—absolutely. Philosophers certainly made important corrections here—namely, that in that which is thinking (cogitans), I am never doing anything but constituting myself as an object (cogitatum).103 The fact remains that through this extreme purification of the transcendental subject, my existential link to its project seems irrefutable, at least in the form of its actuality, and that “cogito ergo sum” ubi cogito, ibi sum,104 overcomes this objection.105

For Lacan, the passage from Cartesian cogito to the phenomenological cogito occurs through an absolute expurgation of the transcendental subject, a reduction to nothingness that nonetheless leaves an “irrefutable” mark on being, a mark that he seeks to schematize. His psychoanalysis is an analysis of this void of subjectivity, the “mirage,” the “nowhere,” the “emptiness” that is the place of the subject’s speaking,106 the place of a question raised “in the subject’s place” as a particular structure: the structure of the letter (that is, S/s).107

Lacan nears the perspective we seek but does not go far enough. He is trapped in an arboreal monism, barred from a more fecund terrain by the very letter he so insistently inscribes.108 The ungluing of the in-itself is the no-thing that is individuation, the in-sistence of what is before the ex-istence of any individuated being. So concerned with his analytic framework, Lacan does not broach the problem of ontogenesis, the very possibility of any such framework, permitting his Real to remain a looming monolith, a sublime background for the free-floating significations of the subject. The preindividual void, however, as we have presented it here, is like a “supersatured solution,” a “metastable system that is filled with potentials.”109 So, if we ask the unasked question of Lacan’s metaphysics, how should the Real be structured so that it allows for the emergence of subjectivity, we must respond that the real, the in-itself, the void, the preindividual, is multiple, and that its individuations are multiple as well—and irreducibly so.110

Lacan’s subject remains transcendental, modernist, spectacular, removed. It is for us to articulate the plurality of modes that subjectivity might take in its stead, tracing the becomings whereby the multiplicity of preindividual being is preserved in individuated reality.


To move beyond the arboreal, and so to allow for a move beyond the singularity of any one image of the subject, we need a different metaphor: the intestinal. If the tree is a cybernetic or computational metaphor—seen in the electric firing of synapses—the intestine is an ergodic one, characterized by pressure, movement, energy, transformation.111 We can say: the mind is not a theatre: it’s a factory.112 The cybernetic eye, eye of the mind, is blind: transcendental aphantasia.

If computers are trees, minds are rhizomes; if computers are circuits, minds are pipes;113 if computers are digital, minds are analog.114 But of course, to dichotomize in this way is to fall prey to the very computational, cybernetic, digital logic that we have been challenging. The choosing of a new metaphor must not reduplicate the singularity that we are attempting to overcome, must not participate in the violence of dialectical sublation.115 How, then, given these conditions, are we to think the intestinal?

We pass from the tree to the rhizome, a passage which is neither beginning nor end but middle, “always in the middle.”116 The rhizome is “between things, interbeing, intermezzo“—it is “conjunction,” the proliferation of the and.117 Indeed, the rhizome is “analogos,” operating through a qualitative logic of proportion, equation, comparison118—which is to say, through a potent logic of “intimacy” and “perversity,”119 the bringing together of the mismatched, the incommutable, the incommensurable.120 The digital “logos,” on the contrary, institutes a “cut” in qualitative space, permitting the isolation and identification of a “submultiple” from which all that is might be reconstructed according to this rule of “distinction” and “discretization.”121

We see the failure of this discretizing logic in the development of the semiological tradition. Saussure institutes the famous formula of the signified-signifier relation in his posthumously published Course in General Linguistics.122 Louis Hjelmslev builds a system of hierarchies atop Saussure’s formula, further discretizing Saussure’s system of “differences without positive terms” into an “algebra of language.”123 In a signficant revision of the tradition, Algirdas Greimas identifies a dangerous metaphysics of the “psychic substance” that had been hindering semiological research, challenging this metaphysical conception of mind through an application of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception.124 The signified-signifier relation is resituated in the “sensible world,” and with it, the signifying subject.125 But Greimas remains bewitched by Hjelmslevian hierarchy and the possibility of an algebraic isolation of “semes,” what we might call the submultiple elements of meaning.126

It is with Umberto Eco that we see these (hastily sketched) prejudices surpassed. The prior tradition fell short because of its emphasis on system, distinction, the tree. The hierarchical construction of language as a system of relations without positive terms precludes the positivity of use, the rootedness of the tree, the fact that the “presence of [at least] one element is necessary for the absence of the other.”127 Isolating the system of language from its use entirely misses the concrete situations in which the “sign-function” operates, therefore missing the fact of its plural and positive tactical utilities.128 If the systematic, transcendental, digital logic of language is what Eco terms the “equivalence model: pq,” then the processual, immanent, analog logic of language is what Eco terms the inferential or abductive model: pq.129 This model is “interrogative,” “conditional,” “tentative,” “hazardous,” entirely concerned with the “matter” of its context, the tactile, practiced space of its perception.130 Signifier, signified, and signifying subject all consist of this matter, the same “continuum about which and through which signs speak.”131 Eco continues:

To interpret a sign means to define the portion of continuum which serves as its vehicle in its relationship with the other portions of the continuum derived from its global segmentation by the content. It means to define a portion through the use of other portions, conveyed by other expressions … These portions are articulated in larger sequences according to the inferential links we described above. In order to express them, one must choose formalized or formalizable portions of the continuum, which are the same as what is talked about, that is, the same continuum segmented by the content. Sometimes the material elements, chosen in order to express them, utilize portions of the continuum different from the expressed continuum (sounds can be used in order to express spatial relations). At other times the same portion of the continuum is used as material both for the expression and for the content (spatial relationships in a diagram used to express spatial relationships on a tridimensional surface) … The matter segmented in order to express something expresses other segmentations of that matter. Through this interplay from sign to sign, the world (the continuum, the pulp itself of the matter which is manipulated by semiosis) is called into question.132

A tree does not work like your brain,133 because, given the contours of semiotic-perceptual experience here described, your brain is a rhizome. But what exactly do we mean by this, and what do rhizomes have to do with intestinal thinking?

If we continue to follow Eco’s reasoning, he leads us into a consideration of two distinct semiotic structures: the dictionary and the encyclopedia.134 The dictionary is the semiological model of language touched on above, first detailed by Hjelmslev.135 The construction of the dictionary depends upon the representation of language “through a finite number of semantic primitives (components, markers, properties, universal concepts),” the coordination of the “‘simple’ (or the ‘simplest’) concepts” of a linguistic system.136 To determine which concepts are the “simplest” in a language, we must recognize that any such list of “primitives” is always “rooted in our world experience.”137 These are the concepts acquired through “direct ostension of the a state of the world.”138 But, when we attempt to construct this list, we discover that “it cannot be a finite one,” and the whole system collapses.139 The dictionary cannot be constructed because the hierarchical, arboreal model of language is, simply, false. Our “world knowledge” is plastic; it “can be continually reelaborated and rearranged.”140 The “real nature of the tree … is no longer a hierarchical and ordered structure,” which is to say that the tree is no tree at all— “we are all the differentiae in which the traditional Porphyrian tree dissolves itself.”141 “The dictionary thus becomes an encyclopedia, because it was in fact a disguised encyclopedia.”142 The old competencies of mind are no longer suitable for our terrain. Instead,

The project of an encyclopedia competence is governed by an underlying metaphysics or by a metaphor (or an allegory): the idea of labyrinth. The utopia of a Porphyrian tree represented the most influencial attempt to reduce the labyrinth to a bidimensional tree. But the tree again generated the labyrinth.

The encyclopedia is a labyrinth; the labyrinth is a rhizome. Eco here cites the “vegetable metaphor” elaborated by Deleuze and Guattari, which they describe as follows:

A rhizome as subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes. Plants with roots or radicles may be rhizomorphic in other respects altogether: the question is whether plant life in its specificity is not entirely rhizomatic. Even some animals are, in their pack form. Rats are rhizomes. Burrows are too, in all of their functions of shelter, supply, movement, evasion, and breakout.143

Eco usefully summarizes the “metaphysics” entailed by such a figure with his own commentary linking together the ideas we have been tracing:

The characteristics of a rhizomatic structure are the following: (a) Every point of the rhizome can and must be connected with every other point. (b) There are no points or positions in a rhizome; there are only lines (this feature is doubtful: intersecting lines make points). (c) A rhizome can be broken off at any point and reconnected following one of its own lines. (d) The rhizome is antigenealogical. (e) The rhizome has its own outside with which it makes another rhizome; therefore, a rhizomatic whole has neither outside nor inside. (f) A rhizome is not a calque but an open chart which can be connected with something else in all of its dimensions; it is dismountable, reversible, and susceptible to continual modifications. (g) A network of trees which open in every direction can create a rhizome (which seems to us equivalent to saying that a network of partial trees can be cut out artificially in every rhizome). (h) No one can provide a global description of the whole rhizome; not only because the rhizome is multidimensionally complicated, but also because its structure changes through the time; moreover, in a structure in which every node can be connected with every other node, there is also the possibility of contradictory inferences: if p, then any possible consequence of p is possible, including the one that, instead of leading to new consequences, leads again to p, so that it is true at the same time both that if p, then q and that if p, then non-q. (i) A structure that cannot be described globally can only be described as a potential sum of local descriptions. (j) In a structure without outside, the describers can look at it only by the inside; as Rosenstiehl (1971, 1980) suggests, a labyrinth of this kind is a myopic algorythm; at every node of it no one can have the global vision of all its possibilities but only the local vision of the closest ones: every local description of the net is a hypothesis, subject to falsification, about its further course; in a rhizome blindness is the only way of seeing (locally), and thinking means to grope one’s way. This is the type of labyrinth we are interested in.144

The one metaphor not included in this encyclopedic-rhizomatic-analogic metaphysic is the one that this essay set out to provide: the intestine. The intestine and the brain are homologous in their appearance but distinct in function, and yet, this homology, this figure of the gut-mind, points us to the rhizomatic, contingent structure of the brain, barring us from regression to the cybernetic model that always seeks to elide its own matter. Piled upon itself, a burrow in the subject, space of movement and supply, the intestine points to the ergodicity of individuation and the groping along of thought. The intestine helps construct for the subject a tactile self-knowledge, a felt experience of one’s own body, a feeling that includes within itself opaque operations beyond the control of any computational, transcendental director.


The intestine is the space of waste,145 incontinence,146 flatulence.147 The intestine has none of the decorum or propriety of the former eye-voice-self, that transcendental bastion of rational illumination. The intestine is the uncanniness of the body that knows something I do not, and yet, nevertheless, is me. The intestine is the territory and the map at once, or rather, in the case of the latter, a tour, the twisting and winding and going about that is constitutive of the itinerance of spatial practice.148 This itinerance should be read in all of its plural signification: homelessness, wandering, the chaotic swerve. Such is the logic, the thought, that we seek. Such is the thought that the intestine teaches.


  1. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (London, UK: Routledge, 2003), 637. 

  2. I use the phrase “what is” as shorthand for existence, the real, the actual, in the Parmenidean tradition. See “Parmenides of Elea,” in The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and the Sophists, trans. Robin Waterfield (Oxford, UK: Oxford World Classics, 2009), 58-59. I find this useful when drawing on Sartre because, as I have previously argued, Sartre’s ontology is “radically Parmenidean” in its foundation. See my “The Torqued Horizon: Preliminary Notes on the Hypersurface of the Real,” Radical Resistance: Dissent and Boundary Crossing in the Humanities, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, April 6, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/38756106/

  3. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 587. 

  4. For a summary of the “epoché,” see Christian Beyer, “Edmund Husserl,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/#PheEpo

  5. Originally, this line read: “The for-itself is always already, in its actual concretion, the ‘in-itself-for-itself.’” This is an erroneous application of Sartre’s terminology. The “in-itself-for-itself” is god, or the for-itself’s autofoundational will to be god: “the ideal of a consciousness which would be the foundation of its own being-in-itself by the pure consciousness which it would have of itself. It is this ideal which can be called God.” Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 587. When I wrote this, almost two years ago now, I was attempting to articulate how the for-itself cannot come from anywhere other than the in-itself. There is no outside (as Sartre himself attests in the opening to the book). However, I became carried away with a citational fever, and used this term imprecisely. [Addendum added March 26, 2022]. 

  6. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 21. 

  7. Gilbert Simondon, “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis,” trans. Gregory Flanders, Parrhesia 7 (2009), 6. 

  8. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 6. 

  9. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 6. 

  10. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 21. 

  11. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 5, 6. 

  12. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 7. 

  13. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 7. 

  14. Or, we might here draw on the Buddhist notion of “interdepedent origination” (pratītyasamutpāda) to express the same idea. For a survey of one interaction between Buddhism and western phenomenology and ontology, see Bret W. Davis, “The Kyoto School,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 Edition), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2019/entries/kyoto-school/

  15. Karen Barad, What Is the Measure of Nothingness? Infinity, Virtuality, Justice (Ostfildern, DE: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2013). 

  16. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Wivenhoe, UK: Minor Compositions, 2013), 90. 

  17. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 6. 

  18. Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, in Manifesty Haraway (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2016 [1985]). 

  19. Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, 30. 

  20. Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University press, 2007), 33. 

  21. I have used this notion of “hyphenation” for some time, which I draw from Fred Wah, Diamond Grill (Edmonton, AB: NeWest Press, 2006), 178. 

  22. Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 6. 

  23. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988), 29. 

  24. Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, trans. Catharine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University PRess, 2013). 

  25. Edmund Husserl, Ideas II, trans. Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer (Dordrecht, NL: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000) 155. 

  26. Alain Badiou, Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999), 36. 

  27. De Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, 55. 

  28. De Certeau cites Foucault on this point—in particular, the “miniscule and ubiquitously reproduced move of ‘gridding’ (quadriller) a visible space in such a way as to make its occupants available for observation and ‘information’”: Practice of Everyday Life, 46-47. 

  29. Alexander Galloway, “The Last Instance,” January 5, 2017, http://cultureandcommunication.org/galloway/the-last-instance

  30. Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern 1983-1998 (London, UK: Verso Books, 1998), 11. 

  31. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 21. 

  32. Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, trans. David Carr (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 48. 

  33. Stefano Harney, Fred Moten, and Stevphen Shukaitis, “The General Antagonism,” in The Undercommons, 100-159. 

  34. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 14. 

  35. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 14. 

  36. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 14. 

  37. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994) 32. Indeed, involution is an operation of metastable systems: “Deterrence itself is the neutral, implosive violence of metastable systems or systems in involution.” 

  38. This is a phrase I employed in my paper “The Torqued Horizon,” which was in turn derived from a paper written during my master’s studies, “Being Planetary” (2017), and the concept of the “superphysical surface” that I drew from Nicholas Berdyaev and the “blind mirror” from Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics

  39. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 15-16. 

  40. Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (1933), 58, https://books.google.ca/books?id=WnEVAQAAIAAJ. And as de Certeau writes, the map is a “proper place[] in which to exhibit the products of knowledge.” The map is not the territory it represents because the map is a strategy whereby power “colonizes space.” See Practice of Everyday Life, 121. 

  41. Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London, UK: Continuum, 2008), 15. 

  42. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 2. 

  43. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). 

  44. Umberto Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986), 43. 

  45. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. rev. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2013), 187. 

  46. Nicolas Bourriaud, The Exform, trans. Erik Butler (London, UK: Verso Books, 2016), ch. 1. 

  47. Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, 17. 

  48. Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, 134. 

  49. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 128. 

  50. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 7. 

  51. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 35, 33, 35. 

  52. Don Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), 66. 

  53. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 66. 

  54. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 66. 

  55. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 67. 

  56. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 78. 

  57. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 44. 

  58. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 48. 

  59. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 49. 

  60. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 57. 

  61. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 51. 

  62. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 35. 

  63. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 61. 

  64. Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, 52: “The new general intellect is rich … It must be described in its inscription in that criminality that doubles as debt, that doubles the debt, that twists in inscription, that torques.” 

  65. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 15. 

  66. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 21, 57. 

  67. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 58, 36. Michel Serres has also explored this ‘unoriginality’ and ubiquity of the eye in his Eyes, trans. Anne-Marie Feenberg-Dibon (London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2015). 

  68. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 29. 

  69. It should be noted that I write this in the year 2020: the time of TikTok and COVID-19. 

  70. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 29. I propose a theory of the hypersurface of individuation in my paper “The Torqued Horizon.” 

  71. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 149. 

  72. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 148. 

  73. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 148. 

  74. Ihde, Technology and the Lifeworld, 149. 

  75. Donna Haraway, Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 33. 

  76. This key distinction between “space” and “place” is from de Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, 35-36. 

  77. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 17, 22, 17, 46, 30, 31, 12, 33, 68. 

  78. Performed under the aegis of a “kind of writing simply called ‘theory.’” See Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 3. 

  79. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 55. 

  80. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997 [1967]), 6, 20. 

  81. Derrida, Of Grammatology, 23. 

  82. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 11. 

  83. “the voice … has a relationship of essential and immediate proximity with the mind … It signifies ‘mental experiences’ which themselves reflect or mirror things by natural resemblance … [it is] a sort of universal language … the stage of transparence”: Derrida, Of Grammatology, 11. The voice entails a representational, correlational, or correspondence theory of mind, which, we have seen, is the theory of the transcendental subject. 

  84. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 4. 

  85. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 6. 

  86. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 6. 

  87. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 6-7. 

  88. Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society,” 4. 

  89. De Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, 31. 

  90. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 14. 

  91. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, UK: Routledge, 2004). 

  92. Isabelle Stengers, “Reclaiming Animism,” e-flux 36 (2012). 

  93. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003). 

  94. Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, 49. 

  95. Ursula K. Le Guin, “World-Making,” in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (New York, NY: Grove Press, 1989 [1981]). 

  96. Haraway, Staying With the Trouble, 31. Indeed, the “material-semiotic” and the “metaphor-metaphysic” constitute a continuum: material-semiotic-metaphor-metaphysic. This we might simplify as material-metaphysic, a practice-perspective that I have explored in the concrete historical instance of the integrated circuit. See my “Fiction in the Integrated Circuit” (master’s thesis, TWU, 2018), 47, https://www.academia.edu/40272048/

  97. Jacques Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud,” in Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. Bruce Fink (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 418, 419-421. 

  98. Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter,” 420. 

  99. Here I draw on the previously cited papers, “Being Planetary” and “The Torqued Horizon,” which deal, in part, with Heidegger’s notion of the augenblick (the moment, the blink of an eye) in Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2010 [1927]), 61, 313, 323, and Derrida’s creative appropriation and revision of it in Voice and Phenomenon: Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl’s Phenomenology, trans. Leonard Lawlor (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011), 59, 73-75. I link the augenblick and Derrida’s “originary supplementarity” in order to re-read the turn or torsion of Heidegger’s essay “The Turning,” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York, NY: Garland Publishing 1977 [1962]). 

  100. Derrida, Of Grammatology, 12. And as Derrida continues, not only presence but “all the subdeterminations which depend on this general form and which organize within it their system and their historical sequence (presence of the thing to the sight as eidos, presence as substance/essence/existence [ousia], temporal presence as point [stigmè] of the now or of the moment [nun], the self-presence of the cogito, consciousness, subjectivity, the co-presence of the other and of the self, intersubjectivity as the intentional phenomenon of the ego, and so forth).” 

  101. Derrida, Of Grammatology, 13. 

  102. This is the behaviorist position. 

  103. “All consciousness, as Husserl has shown, is consciousness of something. This means that there is no consciousness which is not a positing of a transcendent object, or if you prefer, that consciousness has no ‘content.’ We must renounce those neutral ‘givens’ which, according to the system of reference chosen, find their place either ‘in the world’ or ‘in the psyche.’” See Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 7. 

  104. “I think, therefore I am, where I think, there I am.” Lacan’s move here is to deny the “self-sufficiency” of the thinking cogito while preserving the fact that something thinks. See “Cogito,” No Subject: An Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, May 27, 2019, https://nosubject.com/Cogito

  105. Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter,” 429. 

  106. Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter,” 430, 31, 32. 

  107. Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter,” 432-33. 

  108. And here we employ Lacan’s own anagrammatic pun: arbre (tree) and barre (bar), the tree that bars him from a passage from monism to pluralism. 

  109. Simondon, “Problem of Ontogenesis,” 6, 7. 

  110. Asked by Lacan’s preeminent successor, Slavoj Žižek, in Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London, UK: Verso, 2013), 905. This thinking of the void as multiple largely depends on Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London, UK: Continuum, 2007). 

  111. Alexander Galloway, “Anti-Computer,” March 19, 2018, http://cultureandcommunication.org/galloway/anti-computer, n.p. 

  112. Bourriaud, The Exform ch. 1. Bourriaud takes this distinction, in turn, from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus

  113. Though I am certainly no adherent of Daniel Dennett’s, his notion of the “intuition pump” is resonant here. See Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014). 

  114. This final opposition is drawn from Alexander Galloway, Laruelle: Against the Digital (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014). 

  115. Jacques Derrida has demonstrated the violence of philosophy conducted according to a sublative logic in his “Violence and Metaphysics,” in Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (London, UK: Routledge, 1987 [1967]). 

  116. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, volume 2, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987 [1980]), 25. 

  117. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 25. 

  118. Alexander Galloway, “General Formula for the Digital and the Analog,” February 20, 2019, http://cultureandcommunication.org/galloway/general-formula-for-the-digital-and-the-analog, n.p. But certainly not a representational proportion, equation, comparison, a correspondence between in and out, subject and object. 

  119. Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, 9. Haraway’s use of “perversity” is polemical, but is intended to effect a shift away from perspectives of organicism and holism. 

  120. Terence Blake, “Image is the Measure: Notes on Incommensurability and the Dream,” On the Beach 6 (Spring 1984), 3-5, https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/image-is-the-measure-notes-on-incommensurability-and-the-dream/

  121. Galloway, “General Formula,” n.p. Haraway’s perversity is the analog, the shift away from what Galloway term the “common basis,” that which “supersedes the merely homogeneous substrate of elements,” the “transcendental essence within a symbolic order.” This shift is a shift from abstract, nominal difference—or negative individuation—to concrete, qualitative difference: a pluralist and positive individuation

  122. Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskin, eds. Perry Meisel and Haun Saussy (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2011). 

  123. Louis Hjelmslev, Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, trans. Francis J. Whitfield (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961 [1943]), 80. For the line from Saussure, see Course in General Linguistics, 120. 

  124. Algirdas Julien Greimas, Structural Semantics, trans. Daniele McDowell, et al. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1983 [1966]), 5-7. 

  125. Greimas, Structural Semantics, 7. 

  126. Greimas, Structural Semantics, 23. 

  127. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 23. 

  128. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 23. These utilities Eco lists: implications, equivalences, icons, diagrams, symbols, instructions—and more. “Too many things are signs, and too different from each other,” he remarks. See Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 15-18. 

  129. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 26, 15. The sign as “the ‘standing for’ relationship is based on an inferential mechanism: if red sky at night, then sailor’s delight. I t is the Philonian mechanism of implication: p $\supset$ q.” 

  130. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 26, 40, 44. 

  131. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 44. 

  132. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 44-45. 

  133. I recently encountered the phrase “A tree works like your brain” in the manual for a piece of note-taking and task-management software. This is not intended to be a criticism of this software, but merely to illustrate how commonplace this prejudice is. For the phrase, see “Document Structure,” in The Org Manual, https://orgmode.org/org.html#Document-Structure

  134. Eco, “Dictionary vs. Encyclopedia,” in Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 46-86. 

  135. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 47. 

  136. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 49. 

  137. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 50. 

  138. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 50. 

  139. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 50. 

  140. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 50, 66. 

  141. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 66, 68. 

  142. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 68. And indeed, Eco argues that the “structural semantics of Greimas (1966, 1979), with its notion of actant and of classemes or contextual semes, as well as with the idea of ‘narrative programs’, is encyclopedia-oriented.” See Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 73. 

  143. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 6-7. 

  144. Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 81-82. 

  145. For more on “waste,” see Bourriaud, The Exform. “Waste” is a key concept throughout. 

  146. “Incontinence” signifies the “ontological premise” that “reality itself is not the positive outcome of some productive One but the outcome of its redoubled failure.” See Slavoj Žižek, Incontinence of the Void: Economico-Philosophical Spandrels (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019), 50. 

  147. Baudrillard writes: “it is in this fashion that reality is demolished,” in “enormous flatulence,” in the “the intestinal sphere of the sun.” “Flatulence is at the origin of the breath,” he continues, an intestinal mind the operation of which is more akin to “acid” than what is traditionally conceived as “thought.” See Pataphysics, trans. Drew Burk, CTHEORY (2007 [2002]), n.p., https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/ctheory/article/view/14496/5338. Baudrillard is ferocious in this piece, and I do not subscribe to his nihilism. I do, however, find his gaseous critique of modernity to be productive in its language—not in its repudiation of realism, but in the way that it returns the real to itself

  148. De Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, 119.