May 23rd, 2018
Salon of former Palais Dürckheim, Cranachstraße 47, Weimar

Exopistemology: On Knowing Without a Knower Lecture by Steven Connor

As a study into the forms of our care for knowledge – a care that extends as far as our self-designation as homo sapiens, the knowing hominid – what I am calling epistemopathy would allow for an investigation of the experience of knowing and the quality of our awareness of it. Where epistemology concerns itself with what we can know about knowledge, epistemopathy is concerned with what we feel about knowledge. It would be concerned with the idea of knowledge, the value we accord to it, the feelings we invest in it and the potent desires, dreads, aggressions and fantasies to which it may give rise. What do we feel, and fear, about knowing? What are the dreams and fantasies (and terrors) attaching to it? How do we speak or write of it, what social tone and temper do we impart to it, and through it? How, when and where do we encounter it? How does it form us, and infect or inflect other things? How do we, in Sartre’s transitive usage, ‘exist’ knowledge? What forms of the ‘libido of belonging’ (Serres) are channeled through the drive to know? How does the pursuit of knowledge make and modify space?

During my time at the IKKM I will have a particular concern with the current state of our relation to knowledge, and the possibilities and perils of an epistemocracy in which only knowledge will count for anything. I will look forward to developing in particular at the IKKM my thinking about the relation between the affective landscapes of knowledge and technologies of information and communication. If knowledge has always been entangled with apparatuses for storing, processing and transmitting information, how will our feelings about knowledge and about ourselves as sapient beings, or sujets-supposés-savoir (Lacan) change with the relay and delegation of ever more cognitive operations through instruments and mediating institutions? Questions about the affective forms and functions of knowing seem particularly salient under circumstances in which contemporary media simultaneously make available a vastly enlarged plenum of information and a huge intensification in the production and transport of emotional fixation and inflammation. Knowing and feeling seem ever more closely allied and even alloyed when our contemporary media and machineries of knowledge are also preeminently media and machineries of dream-feeling. Because an epistemocracy depends upon, or at least results in, the hugely-enlarged production and circulation of ideas, images and fantasies about knowledge itself, the traditional idea (itself phantasmal) that rationality should be regarded as the opposite pole to feeling, will need to give way to a world in which knowledge is subject to ever denser affect-saturation, the intelligible increasingly a mode of the sensible. I will aim to investigate the condition of the states of quasi-affect, intense, epidemic in their speed of transmission, yet curiously unfelt, produced by contemporary media.