Volume 1, Number 2 (July 2004)
Author: Joshua Nichols
…in cloning, all obstacles to the extension of the reign of the Same are removed; nothing inhibits the proliferation of a single matrix.1
The double is the body’s first prosthesis.2 It is through the double that the individual establishes a specular link with the body and forms an imagos.3 This imagos enables the subject to situate itself within the dimensions of space and time while interacting with the ever present other. It is this imagos, this sign of the self, that allows the subject to welcome the stranger in as an equal – a double or external manifestation of the self – that continually transcends the self image that is superimposed on it, thus the double acts as a bridge, a mediator, a place holder between the subject and the other that allows the door of hospitality to open.4 The double, the imaginary prosthesis, is the point of mediation between the subject and the terror of death. Modern microbiological technology has enabled the subject to penetrate through the supple veil of the spectacle into the abstract genetic coding that exists within each individual cell of the body. The technical reduction of the body to an abstract code has enabled the subject to transcend the specular double by transforming each individual cell into both a prosthesis and a supplement – this fusion is complete in the esotechnical prosthesis body of the clone. The ability to clone an individual is a supplement to sexual reproduction in that it is both an addition and replacement to sexual reproduction. Likewise, it is a supplement to death in that a single genetic code defines the identity of the individual (unit?) and it can be repeated indefinitely. As esotechnical prosthesis the genetic code enables the body to replicate itself ad infintium – the esotechnical prosthesis negates both death and life in favor of continual presence.5 The reduction of humanity to a series of self-replicating isomorphic codes represents the attempted sanitization of every trace of alterity and aberration in favor of the totality of sameness. The power to translate this code and manipulate it through the process of transliteration represents a prophylaxis of both identity and meaning as all alterity is always already comprehended through the double helix.
Cloning represents the extension of Fordist techniques of mass production into the genetic code and as a result “reproduction precedes production, and the genetic model of the body precedes all possible bodies”, yet beyond this cloning promises to obliterate all syntagmatic relationships – it promises to vanquish all difference leaving only the associative relations within one sanitized ontological structure – the positive associations of meaning within one mind translatable into the binary language of the machine, the portal to hyperreality.6 In genetic research the concepts of the prosthesis and the supplement have been fused. This fusion not only constitutes the end of the body but the apparent end of syntagmatic meaning through the formation of an ever-present hyperreality – the genetic hyperreality. Within this artificial totality both the body and language are rendered transparent by the unity of a single ontology with both being and shape expressible in an endless stream of binary code.7
II. The Prosthesis and the Supplement
The first premise of all human history, of course, is the existence of living human individuals. The first historical act of these individuals, the act by which they distinguish themselves from animals is not the fact that they think but the fact that they begin to produce the means of subsistence.8
It is through the use of external mechanical limbs that humanity is able to reproduce itself through labor.9 The tool, the external implement of force multiplication, alters its form in accordance with the needs and desires of the cultural time/space that gives it a form. Within the capitalist economic system the tool or means of production is a piece of private property that is represented by the capitalist who purchases labor power in order to produce commodities. “This fact simply indicates that the object which labor produces, its product, stands opposed to it as an alien thing, as a power independent of the producer.”10 The esotechnical prosthesis modifies the specular image of the body through the process of production – that intimate orchestrated tactile relationship between laborer and prosthetic. The psychic barrier between the specular image of the self and the prosthesis is maintained in the symbiotic interaction of production.11
The supplement is also intertwined with the historical identity of the subject, but unlike the prosthesis it indicates an interiority – a silent ingestion. The supplement exists as both an addition and replacement – it is an indication of both presence and absence.12 In the myth of Theuth and Thamus writing is presented as a Pharmakon (existing as both cure and poison), and is rejected because the externalization of the interiority of thought in writing threatened to destroy the division between the external and the internal by destroying the necessary presence of language as speech through the supplementary appearance of the written sign.13 The supplement is internalized by the subject and thus becomes a part of it repeating itself within the totality of the subject. If the supplement (writing) is externalized the metaphysics of presence is disrupted and the chaotic world of appearance swallows all true meaning. Through logocentrism the division between the presence of speech and the defiant absence of writing is maintained and thus the unity of the ontological structure is maintained by the presence of the absent voice of The Logos.14
Both the prosthesis and the supplement exist in symbiosis with the body – the former relating to and augmenting the body’s externality and the latter both adding to and replacing the body through internalization. The tension between the specular image of the body and the prosthesis and supplement, the tension that maintains the tactile image of the body as a whole – a presence, is disintegrated by the introduction of the esotechnical prosthesis (DNA). The techniques of genetic research reduce the body to its most basic unit (essence?) and its presence is henceforth defined by a double helix. The discovery of DNA and the subsequent development of eugenics and cloning have fused the concepts of the prosthesis and the supplement as the double is physically manifested from a process that translates and transcribes the genetic code.15 The clone exists as both an addition and a replacement to the presence of the subject through space and time. The cell and the DNA it contains is the esotechical prosthesis that allows for the eternal repetition of the same and “it means that the individual is now nothing but a cancerous metastasis of his basic formula”.16 The essence of the presence of the body has been revealed as a written language that can be translated and transcribed to infinitely continue presence through time and space thereby assailing the tyranny of the other that shames the liberty of the subject and places it in terror.17 The logos now has a being and a shape in the double helix and the subjects presence now speaks with “the sound of many waters”.18
III. The Fordist Method of Production and the Possibility of Endless Repetition
…there is a point of no return in simulation: the point when prostheses are introduced at a deeper level, when they are so completely intertwined they infiltrate the anonymous and macromolecular core of the body, when they impose themselves upon the body itself as the body’s original model, burning out all subsequent symbolic circuits in such a way that every possible body is now nothing but an invariant reproduction of the prosthesis: and this point means the end of the body, the end of its history, the end of its vicissitudes.19
In biology, positive feedback refers to a physiological control mechanism in which a change in some variable triggers a mechanism that continually amplifies the change. This form of chain reaction is the inverse of the controlled homeostatic reactions that occur in self regulating negative feedback systems in that a positive loop ends only with birth or death – its course is not interrupted by an external force. In this manner metastasis is a form of positive feedback system in which a cell departing from the equilibrium is rejected in favor of uncontrolled exponential replication resulting in transient systemic catabolism (in metastasis cancerous colonies of cells are transported through out the body). Hyperstasis is a combination of both positive feedback and metastasis. It is a state in which homeostatic reactions are exponentially accelerated and this reaction spreads metastaticly distributing the reaction through out the host. The capitalist system of production operates in a similar manner in that commodities are produced in order to extract surplus value through the endless circulation of money. Labor, the “eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature”, is transformed into an alienated commodity to be bought and sold.20 The ravenous process of mass production and circulation for the sake of circulation is predicated on the concept of continual expansion within an infinite area, yet in actuality it exists within a finite environment. This is the basic contradiction that (for Marx) heralded the collapse of the capitalist system, yet the time necessary to bring a collapse in a hyperstatic system is relative to the speed of the reaction and the size of the body in which it takes place.
During hyperstatic reactions in the body, death is placed into orbit within the consciousness of the host and the others that surround it.21 Humanity exists within a hyperstatic transeconomic system in which the threat of systemic collapse is ever-present in an orbital form, yet the human body exists in a state of relative internal homeostasis in which sexual reproduction must proceed with in a negative (as in a negative feedback system – or homoeostatic reaction) cycle of life and death, hypertrophy and atrophy, thus we remain human despite our systemic alienation (the capitalist system shapes our bodies as an esotechnical prosthesis but it does not at this point completely replace the individual).
The possibility of cloning opens the possibility of absolute alienation, an alienation that renders the division between the commodity and the subject transparent. With the ability to translate and transcribe genetic material the distance between humanity and the economic system they exist within is negated. With cloning humans have the ability to proliferate in hyperstatic symbiosis with the mode of production (isomorphicly self replicating at an exponential rate with the circulation of genetic currency). If this possibility were to be realized the orbital threat of economic catastrophe would become as meaningless as the life of one cancerous cell for as one strand of DNA is repeated its value decreases in accordance with the hyperstatic laws of catabolic consumption.22 The few remaining reserves of terror (radical alterity) would be conquered by the translation and editing of the code of life. With the clone – the hyperstatic human: “There is nothing left of them in each case but the same phantom – like objectivity; they are merely congealed quantities of homogenous human labor”.23
IV. The Clone and the Commodity
Money is the absolutely alienable commodity, because it is all other commodities divested of their shape, the product of their universal alienation.24
Money is a transcendental signifier in that its presence is indicative of an absence – it exists as a placeholder eternally circulating, accumulating and materializing in the guise of the commodity.25 The signifier “currency” implies a flow – a ceaseless movement through time and space – an immediate presence, a formlessness, a fluidity, a transparency of pure kinetic power. Money is the formless essence (the essence of a commodity is its value on the market) of the commodity it is the temporary absence of the commodity within the exchange or its differed formlessness in orbital circulation. With the translation of the human genome DNA has become the currency of life. Its presence outside of the body indicates the absence of the commodity – the technique of manipulation have made DNA fluid (infinitely malleable) – it flows formlessly through the laboratory, infinitely exchangeable, a source of pure creative power. Like money, DNA is being jettisoned into orbit through its hyperstatic circulation, the homeostatic equilibrium of C-M-C is displaced by the hyperstatic proliferation of M-C-M. With the advent of cloning the birth and death cycle of C-M-C (C being equal to the living form that DNA assumes) is disrupted by the formation of genetic capital, an orbital reserve of formless potential energy cryogenically suspended in artificial absence.26 DNA is no longer indicative of presence, it is a transcendental signifier, a formless presence – a placeholder – that is given shape by the contract of exchange.
The transformation of currency into the presence of the commodity is mediated by the contract of exchange in which the representatives of property consent through the demonstrable manifestation of their mutual presence on the contract in the form of the signature. Just as capital reduced all forms of human interaction into contracts of exchange, genetic capital reduces all life to a genetic value, an exchangeable commodity, a temporary manifestation of genetic currency – representatives of a transient form of replicated synthetic presence – representatives of absence. Presence becomes but one side of a continual rotation of presence and absence in the endless existence of a code. The inevitable absence of presence in death – that terrifying absence that gave meaning to life syntagmaticly through the trace has been hyperstaticly superceded by the endless proliferation and circulation of the transcendental signifier – the terror of alterity is comprehended in the translation of genetic material and overcome by its transliteration. There is nothing but hyperreality, the traceless presence that veils the current of orbital absence.
V. The Culturing of Alterity
Otherness, like everything else, has fallen under the law of the market, the law of supply and demand.27
Alterity is a diminishing resource, the otherness that once placed the subject in a state of terrifying awe, is now dwindling as the hyperstatic processes of the economy expand the sphere of cosmopolitanism (consumable/simulated alterity).28 The ability to utilize genetic material as a currency enables the collateral rational comprehension of the other (by reducing the other to genetic material in order to arrive on the ecumenical plane of absolute equality) and the ability to create an always already comprehended alterity. Within the currency of DNA the infinite possibility of creation opens before humanity swallowing all sense of time and space – hyperreality reigns. The world of total genetic currency is a totality of transparency. It is the world of the transcendental signifier – of total superficiality – alterity exists here only as a domesticated form of cosmopolitan consumerism, a totalized fetishism. Caught within the current of genetic material the human exists as both producer and commodity in an endless flow of presence through time and space. The infinite iteration of presence through the translation and transliteration of genetic essence vanquishes the alterity of the other and necessitates the endless repetition of the signifier of alterity, yet like the signifier of presence it is merely a superficial signification of absence, the absence of true alterity – of terror and the absence of identity signified by the clone.
Hyperreality is described as a conceptual point at which reality becomes indistinguishable from simulation. The simulation is a ruse, the implied presence of something that is non-existent and as such the simulation threatens the distinction between reality and imagination.29 The creation of a transcendental signifier, a currency of essence, renders the barrier between reality and hyperreality transparent as all agglomerations of manipulated genetic material are simulations of human perceptions – there is no originality – no alterity – no end, only the endless movement, the eternal current. Without terror, without death, both the presence of the subject and the terror of alterity are meaningless facile illusions, transcribed signifiers cut off from the initial signified. Signs, as an inseparable union of a signifier and the signified do not exist within the circuit of genetic currency there is only the transcendental signifier, the place-holder that relates meaning within the associative network of ecumenical consciousness.
VI. The Current of the Circuit Within the Hyperreal
This ceaseless movement of genetic currency, the boundless inertia of self-replicating presence is by analogy comparable to the computer (the proto-portal to the sphere of the hyperreal?). The translucent currency of creation flows through the networks of hyperstatic operational processes, creating and replicating within a social matrix of ecstatic communication, an endless flow of simulation. Within the computer electricity – the formless currency of energy – flows through the set pathways of circuitry in an endless process of servile simulation – replicating the sensory “reality” at the will of the user. Within the computer associative binary symbols systems are established and accessed on the basis of positive associations – there is no alterity – no terror within the closed system of the totality. The flow of genetic currency attempts to overwhelm alterity through a process of translation and transliteration – it seeks an endless process of pure positive associative communication, replicating alterity in the form of the cosmopolitan fetish. This reality of genetic currency is a simulation a hyperreality in which intelligence has both a being and a shape, where the separation between the imaginary and the actual is shattered by sheer creative inertia, yet a sub-orbital threat hovers behind the simulation – the threat of chaos, of mutation.30 The insular prophylaxis of the hyperreal, the operation, the system, the currency of presence , the sphere of the transcendental signifier, is haunted by the absence indicated by its presence. As the commodity is physically separated form the social relations that produced it and thus mysteriously reflects a perceived apparent reality, a reality that requires the transparent bonds of fetishism that give shape to the hyperreality of perception (the bonds of metaphysics).31 “In the same way, the impression made by a thing on the optic nerve is perceived not as a subjective excitation of that nerve but as the objective form of a thing outside of the eye.”32 Prophylaxis is at work in the hyperstatic replication of the same – in the current of essence – in the search for an intelligence with both a being and a shape. It is the prophylaxis of the system – the operation – it is a myopic prophylaxis that merely disguises alterity as the absence behind presence and as with the relentless atavism of bacteria in the face of the logic of the epidemiological triad of pathology, etiology and nosology. True alterity will arise anew in rebellion of the hyperreal totality. The synthetic occultation of the trace is merely a temporary perceptual eclipse – a temporary observational aberration – despite all efforts the trace/terror remains.
VII. Hyperstasis and the Totality
Hyperstasis reflects both the exponential synergistic acceleration of a positive feedback system and the transient proliferation of cancer through metastatic processes. In hyperstatic systems energy flows within a network with an exponential current that transforms the networks structure by disrupting the homoeostatic equilibrium that gave it form and thus the hyperstatic system exists under the orbital sign of destruction as it proliferates and expands. Hyperstasis is the uncontrolled acceleration of energy, of currency. Its manifestations whether they be the commodity, the clone or the cancerous cell exist as mysterious apparitions seemingly divorced form the process that led to their formation – the presence of the commodity/clone/cancerous cell is viewed as transient in relation to the hyperstatic system that gave them shape. They are products of a hyperstatic process and thus they exist as transcendental signifiers, pure presence divorced from all meaning, a placeholder in an infinite binary associative chain of presence and absence. By entering into the atomic microcosm of DNA, and through the process of translation and transliteration, humanity is becoming a commodity within the hyperstatic system of genetic currency. The seductive power of the possibility of cloning is the seduction of both omnipresence and the power of creation. It is the seduction of becoming the Archimedean point, the transcendentally signified – the logos, God.
Franz Rosenzweig claims that: “all cognition of the all originates in death, in the fear of death” and from this perspective the philosophical flight toward the totality, the end of history, the formation of an intelligence with both being and shape is a flight from the finitude of the self and the terror of the other.33 The potential ability to translate and transliterate DNA to manipulate the language of life is the continuation of this flight, yet its destination lies within the sphere of the hyperreal. When one enters the sphere of the hyperreal, simulation becomes indistinguishable from actuality and thus by controlling the simulation difference, the trace and exteriority that gives meaning to language syntagmaticly is overwhelmed by a pure associative language of presence – the transcendental signifier, the language of one ontology, of one mind. The price of this perceived victory over the terror of alterity is its inevitable return in the catastrophic collapse of the hyperstatic system, the result of exponential catabolic reactions. The victory over alterity through the hyperstatic currency of genetic material is, as the victory of the hyperreal, a Cadmean victory, in which the power of alterity/terror is merely prophylacticly suspended and in the burial of the other exists its inevitable resurrection.
About the Author:
Joshua Nichols is a doctoral student the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. His interests include the sociology of technology, semiotics, phenomenology, and disciplinary and post-disciplinary methods of governance. His most recent publication is: “Data Doubles: Surveillance of Subjects Without Substance” in www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=410
1 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993: 120
2 – Ibid.:113.
3 – Jacques Lacan. Ecrits: A Selection. Translated by Alain Sheridan. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982:4.
4 – Emmanuel Levinas. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2001:42-43.
5 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993:119.
6 – Ibid.
7 – Ferdinand de Saussure. A Course in General Linguistics. Translated by Wade Baskins. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965:654.
8 – Karl Marx. The German Ideology. Translated by Lloyd D. Easton and Kurt H. Guddat. In Selected Writings. Edited by Lawrence H. Simon. Indianapolis: Hacket, 1994:107.
9 – Ibid.:107.
10 – Ibid.:59.
11 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993:118-119.
12 – Jacques Derrida. Dissemination. Translated by Barbara Johnson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981:82-83.
13 – Ibid.:73-75.
14 – Ibid.:83-84.
15 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993:113.
16 – Ibid.:119.
17 – Emmanuel Levinas. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2001:83-84.
18 – The Bible (King James Version). Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990: Revelations. 1-15.
19 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993:119.
20 – Karl Marx. Capital, Volume 1. Translated by Ben Fowkes. Selected Writings. Edited by Lawrence H. Simon. Indianapolis: Hacket, 1994:227.
21 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993:26-27.
22 – Ibid.:128.
23 – Karl Marx. Capital, Volume 1. Translated by Ben Fowkes. Selected Writings. Edited by Lawrence H. Simon. Indianapolis: Hacket, 1994:223.
24 – Ibid.:252.
25 – Ibid.:252.
26 – Ibid.:256.
27 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. New York: Verso, 1993:124.
28 – Ibid.:124.
29 – William Bogard. The Simulation of Surveillance: Hypercontrol in Telematic Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996:4.
30 – G.W.F. Hegel. Philosophy of Nature. Edited and translated by Michael John Petry. New York: Humanities Press, 1970:199.
31 – Karl Marx. Capital, Volume 1. Translated by Ben Fowkes. Selected Writings. Edited by Lawrence H. Simon. Indianapolis: Hacket, 1994:233.
32 – Ibid.:232.
33 – Franz Rosenzweig. The Star of Redemption. Translated by William W. Hallo. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1985:3.