Your Destiny is Your Oeuvre


Oeuvre is a word that has become so rare that many do not even know how to write it. At its etymological origin is the Latin opera, which is the plural of work as artefact. This plural is important. An oeuvre is a long elaboration of works manifesting a style, a thought, a coherence, a patient quest, a self-discipline, a destiny—the whole exceeds the sum of parts.

Take the example of literature. Today we can observe two seemingly contradictory phenomena: the proliferation of so-called “writers” and the vanishing of the concept of oeuvre. The oeuvre is the spiritual body of an author, beyond his or her corpus. It may sound mystical. But let’s consider our physical body: we have various organs, yet there is a complex and singular link that articulates them together and composes our being, a mixture of life and spirit. Your body is responsible for its unity. You are responsible for your destiny.

Exceptionally, an oeuvre even produces a universal and transcendent adjective that will one day end up being recognised by your automatic word processor: Kafkaesque, Cartesian, Orwellian. It’s not just the expression of a self (the adjective that goes with the expression of the self is … selfish). The adjective derived from the surname of a grand oeuvre designates an epochal atmosphere, a link between the imaginary and the real, a way of making worlds. These authors anticipated an era. They expressed a universal. How? Not only by sitting at a table and wondering how, precisely, to express the universal—but just as well by digging into their own destiny without wondering if it will sell.

Editorial marketing is the enemy of an oeuvre in progress. I knew a young writer back in Paris who had the misfortune to make a bestseller with his first book, when he was in his twenties. Publishers and readers then wanted him to write something in the same “touching” manner: he accepted cowardly and became a brand of yogurt, one that must be “touching and cute” even on TV sets. Ten years later, last time I saw him, he was depressed and alcoholic, and I just checked on Amazon: he is now an autobiographical author who publishes his diary: he is, for some yogurt eaters “touching”. He is cornered against his own mercantile mediocrity, condemned at best to deconstruct his “touching” mannerism by seeking an authenticity that he might reach only by completely embracing his own falseness (or committing suicide, or dying alone and bitter). “It’s with beautiful feelings that we write bad literature,” said André Gide, another guy with an oeuvre.

Offering yourself as an oeuvre to the world means ignoring the audience’s expectations, ignoring the number of likes on Amazon or Twitter, and ignoring quotations in the media. It means to work and work and work but honestly and with a cosmic ambition, not like a zombie. It means not even being sure of being published or appreciated when it’ll be done, especially in a world where so many publishers, curators or producers, are clueless and morally if not financially bankrupt. If you are determined to die one day feeling proud of yourself, you have chosen a magic stone and a way to carve it. Don’t expect the others to see it’s a magic stone before a while. Follow that feeling in you which is stronger than you, follow that idea which is deeply interesting for you (not for your mother or for your girlfriend). You will meet many obstacles, epistemological, aesthetic, philosophical, mystical, dialectical, crealectical, emotional, but you will grow and “become who you are”, as Nietzsche put it. The persistent author of an oeuvre ends up reaching a state of grace, beyond the ego, by facing her destiny. Not fatality, but your own personal creal destination.

You become your oeuvre. Nietzsche thus spoke of becoming a masterpiece of a person. Not by intentionally training your body to look like a Greek statue, not by doing self-conscious diets, or collecting self-help books. It is by giving yourself to your oeuvre, composing it while orchestrating it that you will become a masterpiece: a person with a destiny. And for those who do not have the strength in them to be archetypes, initiators, there is always the obedience to a cause, to a collective, to a group with an epic esprit de corps. In a way or another, you shall disappear into something grander than your ego in order to be, in order to be real, in order to be creal. 

An oeuvre does not have to be artistic in the common sense of the term. Einstein, for example, produced an oeuvre because he too was motivated by a principle of unification. An oeuvre narrates the unity of the world through the construction of a coherent structure, whether through mathematical formulas or an architecture, materials, patterns or acts. Yes, acts: no need to produce objects or sentences or equations or anything that deserves a medal in competitions of intellectual prestige to produce an oeuvre. Just become your destiny by hunting it down, invoking it, and once you have met your destiny, don’t let go of it: your destiny is riding Pegasus, a wild horse with wings, if you hold tight you will find your constellation. Destiny is not inevitability, it is the highest version of yourself, it is the biography that expresses the singularity of your possibilities, it is the point of coherence of your relationship with the Creal.

Did you not notice how difficult it is to rely on others? Or are you the person that cannot be relied upon? Most of the people around you are so scattered, confused, troubled with desires, judgements and anxieties, that they become not only obstacles for themselves but also for those who are concerned with coherence and integrity. Do you feel people slip between your fingers like muddy water? Or are you the muddy water? Start counting on you more consistently and on a few carefully selected others, and do so with intensity and skill. Be the hero of your own destiny.

To have a destiny today, a destination (or what Derrida after Heidegger called a “destinality”, but that might be just verbal snobbism, so I might stick with destiny)—to have a destiny is to think of the self as a co-created masterpiece of Creal, of cosmic co-creation. This is all the more difficult because so many of us are sleepwalkers or simply the (missing?) mechanical pieces in (dis)pleasure machines.

The deep oeuvre is always more or less solitary, and that is why it is rare: it grows like a flower in the middle of the desert. But the desert won’t stay a desert for too long if you don’t give up. Look: another flower!

The Prophecy of Machine Supremacy

“What sort of creature man’s next successor in the supremacy of the earth is likely to be. We have often heard this debated; but it appears to us that we are ourselves creating our own successors; we are daily adding to the beauty and delicacy of their physical organisation; we are daily giving them greater power and supplying by all sorts of ingenious contrivances that self-regulating, self-acting power which will be to them what intellect has been to the human race. In the course of ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race. […] The machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question.”

Samuel Butler, “Darwin among the Machines”, published in The Press (1863).

International Conference on Anticipation, Humans and AI

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How should anticipation and anticipatory systems be conceived in order for human decisions to be respectful of pluralism in ecosystems and noosystems? What is the difference between prediction and anticipation in technosocial systems? Is there a common anticipatory feature in biological structures, cultural structures, and technological ones?

Ancient divinatory practices have been replaced by AI-enhanced predictive planning and anthrobotic decision-making. Inferential prediction might prove effective for some technological systems, but in open ecosystems and complex noosystems, we could benefit from a general anticipatory paradigm that would integrate a form of care about the future — forms of life, forms of desire, and forms of hope.

Anticipation Studies is a growing field of research still in need of unification. Anticipation is a rich concept pointing to a cluster of cognitive/emotional/cultural phenomena, in a wide range of contexts and situations. It is a promising paradigm in order to foster cross-disciplinarity and a cross-fertilization of ideas among researchers. In particular, anticipation Studies could shed a new light in current debates about the ethics and sustainability of anthrobotic systems. This conference will kickstart a research cluster studying and connecting the various aspects of anticipation and deepening our knowledge about the relationship between ecosystems, noosystems and technosystems.

Can there be a holistic science of anticipation? Will anticipation be the paradigm that will reinvent cybernetics from a more holistic perspective? We want to consider and understand anticipation at the core of living beings, individual or collective. This international single-track symposium is a step towards the exploration of the missing link that might connect disparate anticipatory behaviors and systems.

Call for papers here



Future Anticipatory Practices, by H. Tibbs


Anticipatory practices in organizations are grounded in prevailing cultural beliefs about time and causation. The dominant anticipatory practices in contemporary management depend on assumptions derived from Newtonian physics, yet these assumptions were superseded in twentieth-century physics and biology. Anticipatory practices thus lag behind recent thinking about time and causation. Salient aspects of new theoretical thinking are reviewed in this chapter, leading to an exploration of how anticipatory practices might be transformed in the twenty-first century. The overall aim is speculative: to anticipate the future of anticipatory practice.

Link to the paper








Crealectics as Open Theory

Crealectics is a complex word formed on Creal and logos or, alternatively, on Creal and the Greek root –ekto. Creal is itself a neologism formed on creation and real. It postulates — as most process philosophies do — that the ultimate stuff of the universe is a dynamic realm of possibilities and infinite virtualities, some of which are eventually realized. The Real in this case — contrary to Lacan’s Real which is closer to what I call Creal — is simply the universe of things and events, the set of actualised phenomena that proceed from the potentialities of the Creal but do not exhaust it. Logos is of course present in more familiar terms like dialectics and can mean discourse, word, theory, order, etc. Ekto means external, projected to the surface, outside. So whatever root we choose — logos or ekto— crealectics can be defined — but yet not exhaustively explained — as the theory of how a reality is produced, manifested and organised from a dynamic creative flow.

Now we have a word but not yet the details of the theory it is meant to describe. The first question one might answer when elaborating a theory concerns the interdependence of phenomena. If the theory is intended to describe a local system or part of the observable world, it will exclude many variables that are supposed neutral or irrelevant (because external) in the functioning of the structure. This raises the question of reductionism. However, a theory like crealectics is primarily thought as a cosmology in the philosophical sense; it is intended to be total, to describe if possible the dynamics of all there is and comes to being in the universe. This is of course overly ambitious and perhaps unattainable but it’s an explicit starting point: in the future a restriction of the domain of application might be necessary, but it is important to be transparent about the original gesture. The general logic of any kind of world-realization is what crealectics as a model or theory is supposed to describe, ideally.

An interesting observation then is that in elaborating such a theory one needs to focus, which can be preliminarily defined as: to narrow the energy of one’s attention on a given region of the Creal, or on the Creal itself as metadomain, with the intention to approach or elaborate the theory itself from an inner sustained intuition. The theory is later expected to describe a wide range of situations and events — this is consequent with the definition of a theory. Here one might ask: is the focus of the researcher — or community of researchers — itself an element of the theory? Is epistemic and observational anticipation an active factor of the deployment of the real out of the Creal? In other words, must we include the subject as a key aspect of the theory, in the same manner than Descartes ended up including doubt and thought into the universal theory he was thinking about?

My first intuition — or perhaps the very logic of an all-encompassing theory — would be to answer yes. The intentional and cognitive focus on the elaboration of a theory of worldforming should not be left out of the system, and therefore we may postulate — for further examination — that any crealization of reality starts with a subjective or proto-subjective focus, a concentrated intentionality, and an anticipation. The opposite option — much practiced in most experimental sciences and even in current scientific cosmologies, for the sake of effectiveness — would be that the theoretician is just a discoverer whose consciousness is not part of the model it explains. For example, there is no mathematical equation that describes the emergence of the mathematical intentionality and practice. Again, for the moment we will take the reckless option, the one that includes the observer. Our theoretical ambition is partly excused by the fact that we are philosophers, and philosophy commits suicide if it behaves like an experimental and reductionist science. In other words, serious philosophers are perhaps condemned to be bold and address the impossible. To be bold and totalising is the only survival option they have left in a world where most other disciplines are more successful in local fine-grained descriptions of a subsystem of the world. Philosophy today can only be this: a focus on the impossible. I call this impossible Creal and as such I believe the Impossible is an active reality.

What is focus? Piaget called it “centration”. It is the intentional narrowing of attention on a target or part of the world, and the ruling out of other possible targets. This is related to what Sartre calls “néantisation” or nihilation, the evacuation by consciousness of certain aspects of the world. Perhaps is it similar to what Lacan called foreclosure (“forclusion”). Here of course we might detect a paradox: how can one focus on the Creal if the Creal is everywhere and nowhere, something to be felt perhaps in the sense that Bergson said that cosmic creation is an emotion? Because we are focusing on the production of the one out of the multiple: the focus is on crealectics and not only on the Creal.

Interestingly, the target of the focus can be something unclear — felt, anticipated — as in a theory yet to be elaborated. Which means that the inquisitive subject might be ready to renounce, obliviate, relativize or reject to a background of minimal duties a familiar world of given codes. She might prefer to follow a fuzzy ideal, a vague ideation, rather than existing rules, results, models, or socially accepted patterns, behavioural or cognitive. This supposes probably that the subject who is ready to do so — to focus on the mere possibility or shadow of a totalizing theory — does not feel fervently attached to any valid existing realistic theory or world-model. One would not search for a new theory of life or reality if one did adhere strongly — albeit more or less consciously — to a given model of life or reality (for example the instruction “do what the majority does, that is where truth is”).

In other words, we could say that the need to focus in order to search for a structure and logic of world-realization is a necessity of self-realization for a consciousness that feels the known worldviews are not convincing, satisfying or coherent enough. Here we could add that it is possible that an existing theory — still unknown to us at this moment — is already the best description for — or the closest to — what is aimed at with crealectics, although with another name. It is part of the joys of a journey to discover a land that is already inhabited: epistemic friendships are more important than flags. One serious candidate is Hegelian dialectics, reread with Deleuze, Whitehead, and Bergson, among others.

Crealectics is a cosmology in the philosophical sense: it assumes a priori that all phenomena are interdependent in that they obey the same protocols — algorithms? — of manifestation and emerge from the same ontological source, a universal realm of continuous virtuality. Secondly, crealectics wishes to incorporate the observer within the theory. The question of the interdependence of phenomena in a theory is not only theoretical. It is also an emotion, it starts with a relative deception and desire: a feeling of dissatisfaction — or incomplete satisfaction — with the grand narratives we are proposed as embodied structures for our existence, or with the overall perception of the phenomena we experience.

Theory starts with a desire for a more coherent world. This is also one of the motivations of science: the unifying principle present in all theories is the projection of a unifying desire or anticipation. When all the parts of the world are connected via a unifying theory — or are believed to be so — then one may feel that the world is “tamed”, and the theorist shall have more agency or control over it. Theory is motivated by praxis. Praxis should be motivated by an explicit theory. The phenomenology of focus is a double movement. On the one hand, it is a reduction of intentionality to a point that can be asymptotically infinitesimally small. On the other hand, this point of reduction is supposed to be a point from which the richness of the world can be reconstructed or reconsidered.

Yet the urge for theorization or unification of the experiences of the world is not necessarily determined by a need to control a great deal of all there is. It can be a strategy of mental and therefore physical health: a consciousness might find it difficult and painful to reside in an incoherent world. Theory might even be an esthetical need, an artistic thirst for harmony, not necessarily determined by a will-to-power. Nietzsche called “übermensch” the consciousness that is devoted to unify the world theoretically and aesthetically: the self-realized subject as a “philosopher-artist”. Here a critical reader might unveil a petition principii, a logical fallacy in which the objectives of the theory are presupposed in its conditions: if the unity of knowledge and aesthetics is fundamental in the elaboration of a theory of the world, then the latter must become a theory of how knowledge is aesthetical and vice versa. In other words, beauty or elegance are presupposed as inseparable from the regime of truth we are constructing, and the anticipation that a theory should be elegant and beautiful, for example in its mathematical or cosmological axioms or formulas, reveal that elegance is part of the system. In the Creal minimal cosmology I proposed in Being and Neonness (MIT Press, 2019), elegance is integrated naturally by the fact that the Creal is given — quite logically — a double, which is the One. In crealectics, the dialectic schemes of unity and multiplicity are the ontological ground for the scheme of beauty. Therefore without crealectics beauty is a dance, a vibration, a correspondence between the Many and the One.

Knowledge is inseparable from a form of harmony or harmonization. If we accept that unity, coherence, multiplicity and becoming are satisfying schemes to describe beauty and elegance, then Nietzsche’s intuition is valid — and indeed his Dionysian Chaos is another name for the Creal. For Nietzsche, the ecstasy or joy of feeling attuned with a cosmology should be part of the theory — hence perhaps his failure in achieving a system — a bit like the cartoon character “The Missing Piece”, who prefers to abandon his missing piece once he finds it because he finds more joy in searching and singing along the road of exploration. Too much One kills the Creal. In this sense, crealectics might need be a theory that is in constant metamorphosis, a theory in flux, an open and fluid noosystem conceived as a process of unification and diversification at the same time — a language?