June 27, 2004

On unbelief (a beginning)

Or why Bin Laden, Mao and Stalin are not practitioners of hyperstition.

Hyperstition seems to share something with ideologies, propaganda and religious dogma in that all concern the effectiveness (or concrete impact) of narratives/ideas.

Yet, at least one important difference is that political propaganda and/or religious faith demands belief. At its most extreme this demand is imposed by violence. To disbelieve tyrants/terrorists is automatically to oppose them (for Bin Laden disbelievers are the infidels are the enemy)

From Bin Laden's Letter to America

"Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory" [Quran 22:39]

"Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah e.g. Satan). "[Quran 4:76]

Hyperstition's plane of unbelief, on the other hand, requires neither belief nor disbelief. It's strength is to have the ability to sidestep the issue while not ignoring it.

Hyperstitional practice involves recognizing a fiction's effectiveness, using it and still not believing it. You don't have to 'believe' in Prof. Challenger for example, to realize that he has the ability to produce affects, create concepts and transmit signal. Yet his power to do these things makes it impossible to disbelieve in him.

Posted by Anna Greenspan at June 27, 2004 12:36 PM




'Hyperstition's plane of unbelief, on the other hand, requires neither belief nor disbelief. It's strength is to have the ability to sidestep the issue while not ignoring it.'

Erm, sounds a bit like Sartrean existentialism(explicitly atheistic and 'unbelieving') to me ...or, erm, am I missing something?!

Surely eliminative materialism (of one kind or another) is what you want to back up your 'side-stepping' belief/unbelief claim. But then what role would 'fiction' play...? You're not literally supposed to 'believe' myths, but they seem to hold, and have always held, quite some social power - is hyperstition's theory of 'effective fiction' different from mythology? And if not, why not?

I am genuinely interested!

Posted by: infinite thought at June 27, 2004 09:42 PM



But surely Sartre's existentialism is precisely about disbelief, not unbelief (secularist atheist as the double of monotheistic fideism, Nina? Tho there is an interesting link between hyperstition and existentialism via Cronenberg's Existenz, which was so named because it supposedly allegorized the existentialist view of life as radically unconditioned. Sartre's appropriation of Dostoyevsky ('without God, everything is permitted') echoes Hassan i Sabbah, 'Nothing is true, everyting is permitted.'

(Cronenberg and HiS worthy of at least honourable mentions in the hyperstitional pantheon??)

Really need another version of existentialism: 'Existentialism is NOT a humanism'

Not sure about elminative materialism, really; its project to replace the intentionalist ontology with a more hardcore materialist conceptual repertoire is of course admirable, but not clear abt relationship of this to hyperstition...

Myths are just hyperstitions that have ceased to be effective, where unbelief has subsided into disbelief.

Posted by: Mark k-p at June 28, 2004 12:37 PM



Hyperstition's plane of unbelief, on the other hand, requires neither belief nor disbelief.

While this is obv right, we do need to concretely thrash this through I think ---

Let's put it this way: how is hyperstition different from kynical instrumentalism, which wd be the flip of UBL and his cult of belief?

Think Castenada is a good e.g. of unbelief really - in that at first both Castenada's narrator and you (the reader) 'believe' in Don Juan - by the end, both the narrator and you have been initiated/ had your scanning patterns shifted so that belief in DJ is no longer required. Indeed, we shd go further: part of the initiation is the propagation of positive unbelief, to be a Yaqui sorcerer you have to suspend all beliefs in authority...

Posted by: mark at June 29, 2004 04:59 PM



I'm still not convinced that Existentialism doesn't 'sidestep belief' as well, but am interested in further work turning up on this question.

The really weird thing about Sartre's humanism is that it is completely inhuman - and I don't mean this in a flippant way. The 'Existentialism and Humanism' lecture (as piecemeal and superficial as it is) is explicit about how empty this humanism really is: 'I cannot base my confidence on human goodness or upon man's interest in the good of society....an existentialist will never take man as the end, since man is still to be determined'. Sartre's 'humanism' doesn't really consist of any substantive claims......the early stuff is still tied up with a Heideggerian and post-religious language of course (anguish, authenticity, creation of meaning etc.), but it gets a lot more interesting later on in the Critique and the work on politics - his discussion of the 'inhuman' at the heart of the human and descriptions of the 'apocalyptic' coming together of the 'group in fusion'. It's gripping stuff, honestly!

On a related note, Lacan's 'if God is dead, nothing is permitted' seems to me to be an intriguing variation on the Dostoyevskyan slogan and one that might have more to contribute to this debate on unbelief etc. I'll try and formulate something on this perhaps.

Plus, I would say that Maoism had not much to do with 'belief' as traditionally conceived, either as religious belief or doctrinal adherence. Surely you have to be careful about the formally decisive character of different social/religious/political formations?

Further, does Hyperstition need to defend its privileging of 'fiction' as chosen affective motor? Why not neuroscience? or something else?

I haven't quite got to grips with the whole project, I must confess - despite having read the lists (or anti-lists) and principles (or anti-principles). Any basic summary floating around?

Posted by: infinite thought at June 30, 2004 01:34 PM



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