The course material (OCA, 2016, p.103) states that the first can only be compared if a second and third etc. is present, exists. I am a bit confused by the argumentation and need therefore to reflect on this and to put it into context (of everyday life and theory of difference)
The comparison of Newman text‘s of the ‘original man’ and his ‘original poetic gesture’ as an artist with God reminds of the argumentation Plato made in his book The Republic (Preparation A3 – Plato and a dualistic philosophy / The Republic)
Plato, Art and logic of creation
In book X of Politea (The Republic) Plato looked at art and especially how truth and reality is represented. His line of reasoning goes along the path of creation as a representation of an idea. The first idea is originated in God who makes one item e.g. bed, as the real thing. A carpenter takes that idea and makes a physical copy form nature of it, a physical bed, with the ‘eye on the form’ (second remove from reality). The artist creates an illusion of the carpenters’ objects with the ‘eye on the physical thing’, an image of a bed, what means a third remove from reality. The reality itself lies in the pure idea. For Plato all these copies are ‘shadowy thing compared to reality’ (Plato, 2007, p.338)
The denial of firstness
If firstness as such cannot be, it needs a second human being so that the first as the first can be ‘seen’ as the first, as the course material states. What is God if not the idea from which all humans are actualized by resemblance? Is the firstness possibly like Plato’s reality a transcendental idea residing with God, inaccessible and not to be experienced in everyday’s life?
The logic of the statement is not so clear. The author rejects on the one hand the idea of firstness of Adam because there is nothing to be compared with. Then, with the existence of a second, Eva, who could affirm the firstness of Adam, this is also rejected on ground of the previous rejection of the firstness of Adam. It seems rather weird and circular. Would this mean nothing else that the secondness is also denied? Because if there is no first, then there is no second etc. And if there is numbering then how comes that we have such words in our language? Perhaps, an examples where the theorists are loosing sight of life?
“Paradoxical as it sounds there has to be more than one of a thing before that class of things can exist.” – Michael Belshaw, OCA (2016)
I agree that there need to be more than one of a class before one can start to compare, what is described as the ‘originary delay’ coined by Derrida. But it doesn’t exclude the notion of firstness for me, as the second obviously can affirm the previous existence. Otherwise, queueing up would not work at all and people would start to fight forever.
This argumentation raises also the question of uniqueness (or original). But what is ‘unique’ if being unique means being first and firstness is denied as non-comparable with nothing? Thus, the nonpresence of firstness (the being exists as an entity though) is the absence of uniqueness (as it can never be)?
By the logic of difference there seems to be something at odd. Perhaps it is the ground of resemblance, or in a Platonic sense, the claim on the quality of the sameness as the essence of identity, of an idea. If the second and third are linguistic terms of resemblance and the first as such cannot be, then the difference between a follower and a previous being is not comparable, it is different as such.
Visual notes on resemblance and difference
As experienced before I need to draw down some thoughts and to play with it. Started with above example of a ‘first’ as unique elements followed by others (second, third etc.) I can see that one compares them for some resemblance. Because, what means being second? Second in what? As a non-unique element that differ from the previous one.
There can be various differences:
- temporal sequence
- spatial placement
- difference in kind (shape)
- difference in degree (order, placement)
But what if the ‘first’ is not present any longer? Is the second than the ‘first’, to whom the followers compare as those are ‘not aware’ of the non-presence of the ‘original first’?
I can see that visually it is much easier to create all sorts of constellations leading to linguistic questions that are hard to answer?
Is this the way art, if I would consider my quick sketches below as art, is creation and affirmation of being? Without verbal expression I can play, add, shuffle, erase, don’t draw etc. My marks on the paper are there, thus they affirm my act of creation.
It seems that these two terms (firstness and uniqueness) argued from a perspective of ‘logic of difference’ are struggling with the notion of resemblance. I can see how language can either be a practical approach for daily communication, conveying a message or meaning, eg. who was first in the queue? Or language is deconstructed in such a way that logic will come to an end. Nevertheless, I sense that some deeper reading on Deleuze and Derrida could possibly clarify some discrepancies and misunderstandings.
Thus, it seems that the theory of difference has something to do beyond language and resides deeper in the realm of possibilities. Perhaps in context of Bateson’s conception of differences that make a difference ad result in information. Clearly, the information given by above example of Adam and Eve, is that Adam was the being preceding Eve. Whether one calls it first or unique seems rather a linguistic representation of some other conceptions. Clearly, we talk about a temporal phenomena. Could there also be a spatial phenomena relating to these two terms?
I am surprised how quickly I come to new perspectives and ideas by drawing and playing with ideas, and let loose some linguistic constraints. It is just wonderful to make art. Now, I can see why Deleuze compared philosophy with art. The first dealing with concepts, the latter with precepts. From my above lines sketches I am wondering whether art can not also make concepts, non-verbally but still going beyond mere precepts. More to digest and to read possibly, but more to play artfully with.
- Open College of the Arts (2016) Visual Studies 1: Understanding Visual Culture. Available from: http://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/oca-content/course-pdfs/cg_ah4uvc_281116_red.pdf.
- Plato (2007) The Republic, Penguin Classics, 2nd rev., reissued with new introduction by Lane, M. ed. Translated by Lee, D. London; New York: Penguin Books.