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Twelve Rules to Orient Thought

by Tristan Garcia

I Let be
Maximize the possible. Entertain the possibility of material things, of real as well as
imaginary things, of each part of every thing, of each occurrence of every thing
throughout time, of contradictory things, of impossible things;
Treat each possibility equally;
Make free and equal possibilities the element of thought.

II Map the situation of thought


Tell great theoretical accounts, so as to understand our situation: e.g., the emergence
of modernity, and its decay;
Ascertain the principles that circumscribe a situation of thought: classical concepts of
the absolute, the eternal, the in-itself, authority; modern concepts of autonomy,
presence, intensity, emancipation;
Understand how each concept is the hidden alliance of an image and an idea.

III Locate the cardinal promises of thought


In learned thinking, in popular cultures, seek everywhere and always for the concepts
that undergird an era or culture as its principles;
Find the initial sense of a thoughts promise, and the image that first struck the mind to
allow an idea to direct life (e.g., the image of electric current, which has paralleled the
modern idea of intensity and of intense living);

Set thoughts promises against their longterm effect on life: fulfillment, resistance,
exhaustion, failure.

IV Take seriously any idea that orients a thought


Learn to familiarize yourself with any idea, though it seems distant, foreign,
antagonistic;
Demonstrate nobility and never belittle an antagonistic idea;
Strive to augment, rather than resist, what comes through thought.

V Never set one principle against another


Avoid moral and external criticism of a thought; such criticism does no more than
object to consequences;
Do not conflate an idea with its defenders; rather, show yourself capable of making it
your own as well;
Nothing that can be thought is foreign to anyone who can think: engage as thoroughly
as possible in the ethical and internal criticism of any thought.

VI Determine the advantage and the cost of every thing


Establish the inverse functions of the thought in question, as in: what is gained for what
is lost, and what is lost for what is gained;
Identify the advantage of a radical bias: what it alone can allow you to see and think
(i.e., the advantage of idealism, the advantage of realism);

Estimate the price to pay for adopting a bias: the blind spot of a lucid thought (what
idealism lacks with respect to realism; what realism lacks with respect to idealism).

VII Set the most radical biases back to back


Find and raise the watershed ridge between two thoughts oriented by two radically
opposed ideas;
Accept without the slightest pathos the tragic irreconcilability of the situation. Above
all, do not seek a compromise between or hybrid of the two positions or otherwise
negotiate an intermediary solution;
Use the arguments of one side against the other. Allow one to illuminate the failings of
the other, and vice versa. Do not claim that each side has its share of the truth but,
rather, that the one and the other are completely correct, until one shows the other to
be wrong. Pay heed to extreme ideas. Work always with the most radical thoughts, the
ones that put the most strenuous, opposing stretch on the field of thought.

VIII Draw a new line of thought that is distinct but equal, equal but
distinct
Find a line of balance, a ridge, from which to consider the most opposed camps at an
equal remove;
Be not cowardly but courageous in maintaining a line of thought that evades all
camps. To classical and reactionary minds, which condemn the indistinction of all
things to which late modernity has led, reply the following: You are correct, we must
draw distinctions; but your purpose in drawing them is to reintroduce hierarchies. To
modern and postmodern minds, which condemn the introduction of hierarchies in all
things, reply: you are correct, we must equalize; but you seek to equalize by making
everything indistinct, by eliminating all categories (species, genres, classes);

In all areas of thought, make do by observing at the same time both the need for
distinction and the need for equality;

IX Transform a current non-place of thought into its future locus


Have the patience to linger long in a fallow middle ground of thought, and refuse to
take part on either side: like the world itself, split yourself between antagonistic ideas,
not to reunify the world but to transform the no-mans land between enemies into a
new locus of thought for others one day to settle;
Rather than deliver content to serve as a lesson in thought, make your thought into an
exemplary gesture, which others can imitate in their own way;
Build your thought to be a space where future minds can freely dwell.

X Resist the future domination effects of your own thought


Behave in such a way as to change your ideas as little as possible when a dominated
idea becomes dominant;
Draw no legitimacy from a mere sense of being in the minority and
misunderstood:always envisage the moment when what you think becomes the
majority opinion, and acknowledge that our idea will become that of a school of
thought;
Neutralize in advance the authority effects of what you think, especially the
paradoxical domination effects inherent to the most liberal and emancipatory ideas.

XI Keep thought from legislating over life, and keep life from
determining thought
Do not think for the defense of your life (your tastes, your values, you biases);

Do not live for the defense of your thought;


Hold to thought as to a non-living part of a singular, sensitive, suffering living
organism, a part that is universal, that never feels or suffers. Imagine thought as an
organ of the universal, developed by the human species as well as by other animal
species: the part of life that escapesor tries to escapelife. Imagine thought as the
sole irenic place, where each of us can try to escape the interests of our life, and seek
concord with all that thinks. Imagine that life by the same token escapes thought;

XII Render powerful


Do not forget that the purpose of thought can be anything: that the purpose of life is
whatever matters to life. Consider that he who thinks is dealing with anything that is
possible, and that what lives is always choosing and sacrificing possibilities;
In thought anything is freely, equally, and distinctly possible; for what lives everything
is linked and everything varies. Distinguish the possible from power (what renders
possible or impossible). Acknowledge that the greater the possibility, the lesser the
power; that the greater the power, the lesser the possibility;
Think so as to render possible; live so as to render powerful.
CONTRIBUTOR
Tristan Garcia
TRISTAN GARCIA is a philosopher, novelist and essayist. He is the author of over a dozen books, including, in
English, Hate, A Romance (FSG, 2011), and Form and Object, A Treatise on Things (Edinburgh UP, 2014).