da Silva, F. (2017) 1(Life) - 0(blackness) =& -& or &/&: On Matter Beyond the Equation of Value. e-flux journal 79: 01--11. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/79/94686/1-life-0-blackness-or-on-matter-beyond-the-equation-of-value/

Dave Harris

[Starts witth obscure llist of dictionary  definitions, of  'matter' I think:
'a thing, affair, concern, that which constitutes or forms the basis of thoughts… Substance… (Contrasted with form) Philos…] With differences in Aristotelian, scholastic and Kantian philosophy, turning on things which have bare existence but which require essential forms, things which are the result of creation, substance without forms, and elements of knowledge derived from sensation]

[Unnecessarily obscure throughout -- blackness is not just 'not-white'.  She admits this is Fanon really. More interesting on how the form of things and their relations became important rather than their substance in Kant and Hegel -- which then is assumed to be the source of colonialism as usual. No consideration of the prblems that would recur if we turned again to substance, this time of blackness -- essentialism? founationalism?]

What if blackness referred to matter — substance, substance without form how would this affect its value and what would become of the economic value of things if they were an expression of grammar especially if they followed the usual logic of obliteration? The issue connects with Black Lives Matter which has an underlying ethical syntax relating to the liberal democratic states, referring to a political subject emerging through a sentence without self-determination and therefore risking obliteration. However blackness as a disruptive force can expose the limits of justice and this can be shown by a thought experiment 'the Equation of Value'. This will show the [undiscussed] referent of blackness, some excess which may sidestep racial violence, something of the limits of modern thoughts, something beyond universality, some other horizon of existence.

In an early artistic installation [!] minerals were arranged to 'glitter image colonial violence' to depict a hole in a site of a German mining operation in Namibia [image provided, page 2]. This made Da Silva think about blackness and its creative capacity initially as a disruptive force, through linkages between spaces of plenty, and spaces of scarcity. However, this installation was still inside a Western aesthetic culture, invoking a disinterested subject, implying some public domain, despite the artist's intention to invite examinations of power '"through the notion of shine"'. This makes it 'an item in the anticolonial arsenal and a site of confrontation' (3) [beats me]. This will puncture aesthetic culture whose ethical framework depends on universality just as does formalised syntax, which she intends to address through her notion of the equation of value, and ethical grammar.

She does not believe that racial subjugation depends on hierarchical divisions of rational and irrational, nor how European man dominates what is human [she gets close to this though], nor on a depiction of the outside which the other inhabits. These matters have already been mapped. The artist in this case has drawn attention to the connection between what she calls shine and obscurity. That points Da Silva to ethical indifference with which racial violence is met, rooted in notions of indeterminacy, and the implied separability and sequentialtiy 'the triad sustaining modern thought' (4) and its ethical syntax. In this system indifference makes sense as a moral stance.

How does the subject without properties emerge? It began with an earlier question about how human minds can get to the truth without divine revelation, usually starting with Bacon and Descartes and their attempts to develop science and causality, based on Aristotle's causes — material, formal, final, and efficient. Efficient causality in particular was emphasised because it helped break with mediaeval scholasticism and its reliance on authority and syllogism. In particular Bacon suggested that secondary causes were important, the way in which God's work occurs in nature, how elements of nature actually carry the force, the form imprinted upon them by God. Descartes in turn showed that the mind itself was a suitable ground for such formal thinking as a thinking thing itself.

Thus formalisation is the most important contribution, especially for Descartes, and efficient causality is revealed in the very movement of thoughts that moves between I think and therefore I am. Descartes and others pursued the argument into the investigation of nature as a matter of the movement of bodies rather than trying to uncover their forms, the effects of efficient causes. The Cartesian cogito therefore represented the subject without properties and it was this notion that appeared in modern 'economic juridical ethical and aesthetic scenes' (5).

Turning to ethics, Kant argued that at least slaves brought Negroes into the world of value which they had not attained in their own lands, where they were mere things of no value, not even realising that they were humans [via an actual quote p.5] . This raises the question why black lives do not matter, which can be traced back to the Kantian notion that the universal and the formal, determinacy as efficient causation lies behind modern ethical and juridical formations. In modern knowledge blackness shows the operation of efficient and formal causes, anatomic forms and organic processes in the production of 'a racial subject destined to obliteration'. This is [somehow] supported by Newton's natural philosophy. It is no longer based on pure intuition or categories of understanding, since, for Kant, science is no longer interested in essences, but knowledge can be established by the movements of the senses, discovering what has happened and how abstract action and reflection can be established as a matter of material and efficient causes [with a lot more spelling out of this, although it still has to be connected somehow to what he said about slavery for my money]. [I think she means scientific or pseduo-scientific racism]

Determinacy is the core of modern thoughts and this presumes a universal disposition of effectivity and the relation between objects mediated by abstract determinants, laws and rules that can be captured by rational things. Value becomes universal, a matter of determinacy and judgements produce qualities measurements and classifications. This goes over into ethics where again there are universal measurements and classifications.

We can fit this to blackness. Kant thinks the guiding ethical entity is humanity, 'the sole existing thing possessing dignity… Intrinsic value' (8) and humanity alone shares in the determining powers of universal reason which gives it free will or self-determination. It 'already refers only to Europeans' [through default?] and this is further extended by Hegel attempting to explain human differences in world history as the actualisation of universal reason ending with Europe, thus racial and cultural difference. Knowledge procedures are effects and causes of mental, moral and intellectual differences and the European mind is the universal gauge since 'it alone shares a key quality with universal reason'. It is easy to see that economic differences arising from colonisation or enslavement confirmed these differences and already assumed them [well this is where we might differ]. The two were occluded [we can agree on that]. It becomes possible to see the social configurations produced by colonisation as efficient causes, laws of nature producing racial differences, and blackness as [an explanation] a way of concealing the total violence necessary authorised by colonial domination including juridical forms.

Nevertheless blackness can still unsettle the ethical and juridical programs governed by this determinacy by exposing its violence. We must ask again why Black lives do not matter. We can turn to mathematical reason and develop a new procedure, the equation of value. This will expose a new disruptive and creative capacity.

Blackness has no value, is a negation not a contradiction because it refers to matter, something without form, a formless thing, a nullification of the whole order. What instead if it is contradiction? We have to first see black life as part of a general form of life, life that for some reason does not matter, but still life

[I think this is the basic argument lying beneath the silly mathematical manipulations that follow, where blackness is given the value -1, while positive life is given the value 1. A simple addition of the two leads to 0, but if we multiply one by -1 or divide it, retaining the negative expression, we can then keep this negative expression as something that can multiply life — it's bullshit and ends with the triumphant step that since it is impossible to divide anything by zero, you can end with content without form and put blackness outside of the dialectical form. Others have done this including Fanon and others [it seems to me to be just like Irigaray refusing to define women as just not men]. What we have done is apply blackness as oppositional power to matter not form, [beyond conventional form] and thus to reject determinacy, and the easy notion of blackness as a signifier of dissolution and violence. 'Blackness as matter signals &, another world, namely, that which exists without time and out of space in the plenum' (10) [what a long winded and pseudy way to put this. Will simple arithmetic convince anyone that black lives matter I wonder?]