Alan N. Shapiro, Autonomy in the Digital Society

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In Search of the Child’s Innocence, by Caroline Heinrich (translated by Alan N. Shapiro)

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Caroline Heinrich:

(translated from the German by Alan N. Shapiro)

I begin with a quotation. “The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes”, writes Nietzsche in Zarathustra. The child is innocent because s/he starts all over again from scratch. S/he starts from the space of emptiness that the lion has carved out. The space of emptiness is the space that has been emptied of the values of Western thought – values that the lion has corrupted. Exposed during the process of the radical destruction of these values is the fact that they signify “nothing.” They are based on a will to nothing, a denial of life. The metamorphosis of the lion into the child thus takes place at the moment of an “implosion into No.” This is the moment when the will that only denies must, in the final reckoning, deny itself. The crucial point to be grasped here from my point of view is this: for the invention of radically new values to occur, it is first absolutely necessary to achieve the void of values.

I want to investigate the question of why the creation of values – based as it is on the fundamental rule of saying yes to life – is to be found more than anywhere else on the playing field of the child. I will divide my inquiry into six parts. First, I underscore a critical opposition: what is the difference between the premises of Western value-production and the childish creation of values? Second, I address the problem of singularities. Third, I consider whether one can detect a Nietzschean trace of the “child’s innocence” in Jean Baudrillard’s thought. Fourth, I demonstrate that the playing field of the child is shaped by his/her perception of the pataphysical refinement of the world. Fifth, I establish why the destructive desire towards the object is unknown to the child. Finally, based on this insight – I reflect once more upon the topic of singularity.

According to Nietzsche, Western metaphysical thought is based on measuring the correlation between the value of an ethical principle and the degree of its reality. The assumption is that the highest ethical value would have the greatest reality. Within this worldview, “good” is connected with truth, reality, reason, being, order, unity, causality, and so on. “Evil” is associated with untruth, illusion, sensuality, nothingness, disorder, multiplicity, chaos, etc.

Traditional Western morality is based on the assumption that the good is the true, the true is the real, and the real is substantial. The Nietzschean child replies: your truth does not interest me, I know nothing of substance, and I am stumped by what you call reality. Western morality says: the good is a principle on which you should act. The Nietzschean child replies: I know no principle, I know only exceptions, and my sporting game is different every time. Morality says: this is good, do this… .The child replies: “that depends” (es kommt darauf an).

“That depends” means that a singular constellation exists at a certain moment. At that moment, the Nietzschean child makes his/her judgment about “good” and “evil.” For example: in the old order of values, pity for the suffering of others is a value in itself. In addition to limitless hypocrisy, this leads to the condemnation of those who do not suffer, those who do not wish to suffer, and those who do not place any special value on having sympathy for their inherited environment. Against this, the pity of the Nietzschean child is expressed in the following remark by Nietzsche: “I frequently feel “pity” where there is no suffering, but rather … a lagging behind contrasted to what might have been“. The pity of the Nietzschean child grounds the perception of the denial of becoming. It recognizes that active forces get severed from the property of affirmation by reactive forces. The pity of the Nietzschean child is not necessarily related to the real suffering or not-suffering of others. It is not a “good” value in itself, no more than an instance of destruction would be a non-value in itself.

I come now to the question of the trace of the “child’s innocence” in Baudrillard’s thought. It appears in his conceptualization of the “insurrection of singularities” against the system of generalized exchange.

In 1976, Baudrillard wrote about the architecture of the World Trade Center – the twinness of the Towers, their binary character, their doubling of monopoly capitalism. He explained that we survive in a system where there is no longer difference and where all social spheres have become interchangeable. Marx had already grasped that “the movement of capital is without measure.” Baudrillard has made it clear just how without measure the movement of capital has become – so measureless that it has abolished all referentiality. Today pay and work are completely decoupled from each other. Work and leisure time are melded together in “lifestyle design.” We will take trade unions seriously again when they start to demand the doubling of salaries and “the right to be lazy” for anyone who wants it.

Work no longer serves production. It serves the reproduction of designed women and designed men. We are all designed not designing. And so we shall remain – until the day comes when we finally say aloud what we all have secretly been thinking for a long time: we do not believe in productive work, nor in growth, nor in progress, nor in the state bureaucracy of Big Brother.

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