CSS Smooth Text Color Transition


The words, as they are arranged in the first example —SUNRISE POST / ORACLE POST [i]— are taken from the end credits to the sixth season of the American TV programme Cops (1993–94). Sunrise Post and Oracle Post are the names of the two production companies that did the post-production, that is, the processing of the recorded material. The first thing to notice is that, in a digital age, post-production is a somewhat anachronistic phenomenon. Today, the actual production of video or other visual presentations to a large extent takes place at the post-production stage. Through post-production we (re-)create what we pretend to have left behind. In that sense, post-production corresponds to something that has gone before, a phantasmatic production that becomes visible retroactively. Something is produced in its absence. We are in a terrain that is recognisable from psychoanalysis, above all with regard to the structure of the symptom. The symptom articulates something that has gone before, but is constituted on the basis of its difference. Through that difference a continuity is established. In this sense, experiences that were previously indigestible are postponed. Even if those experiences have not taken place at all, they are structurally necessary for our understanding of what causes the subject. With the starting point in the present a past is determined, which in the subject’s reality is assumed to determine the present.
              We have also talked about the future as if it comes towards us. We have said that we meet the future. The implication of this is that time’s arrow flies backwards, from future to present—and even further back. The allure of this meeting lies in its ontological aporia—its implied potentiality and the precariousnessof total impossibility. How can beingcome from the future, out of something that is not? A meeting presupposes mutual presence, but what meets us is never really there—hence, it is by definition not the future. Saint Augustine attributes this meeting to the difference between what meets our sight and what can only be said: “I see the dawn, I predict that the sun will rise. What I see is present, what I foresee is future—not that the sun will exist (it already does), but that its rise will exist. That has not yet occurred, so I could not predict its rise without having an image of that event in my mind (as I do even now when I mention it). Two things I see—the twilight preceding sunrise, which yet is not sunrise, and the image of sunrise in my mind, which is also not sunrise. Both these things must be seen in the present for the future to be predicted—the sun’s rising.”[ii]

The aporia cannot be explained away by internal images that presage the future. The future cannot be observed, not even through internal images. Such images are present and can therefore by definition not be identical with the future: “Future things do not yet exist; if they do not yet exist, they are not; and if they are not they can in no way be seen.”[iii] In other words we are blind in the face of the future. It does not yet exist; it is non-existent. And yet, Saint Augustine says, it can be said from “present signs.” What is a present sign? A sign is both concrete and general. It is both descriptive and transcendent. It is totally self-sufficient, and yet always more. Surprisingly enough, I am thinking here of On Kawara, the vague specificity of his date paintings. What date? Just this date ≠ any date. A sign is something that indicates a direction. We detect a direction in the sign that points away from it, towards what it no longer is or is yet to be. Dawn is a present sign of a future sunrise. The distinction between seeing and saying here opens up an oracular space for action. The oracular act as such makes me speak. It is what I see that speaks; the sign speaks through me and it says more than sight is able to register.
                When immediate moral and political decisions had to be made in the Greek world, they turned to oracles for guidance. As Hegel explains in Lectures on the History of Philosophy: “We know that the Greeks undoubtedly had laws on which to form their judgments, but on the other hand, both in private and public life, immediate decisions had to be made. But in them the Greeks, with all their freedom, did not decide from the subjective will. The general or the people did not take it upon themselves to decide as to what was best in the State, nor did the individual do so in the family. For in making these decisions, the Greeks took refuge in oracles.”[iv]Placing our trust in something beyond our own control in this particular manner involves acknowledging the contingent horizon of our actions. Hegel is sometimes portrayed as a champion of a kind of infallible necessity through the teleology of reason, but his understanding of the oracular more affirms the necessity of contingency. For him, contingency is the aspect of nature that escapes the law, but in which all of our actions are embedded—or, more specifically, the fundamental unpredictability of those actions. The dialectical transformation consists in the contingent becoming necessary through its own becoming; necessity as self-sublated contingency. Contingency is thus not only my own, but is inscribed in something external: “For the contingent is something that is not self-possessed and is alien, and

therefore the ethical consciousness lets itself settle such matters too, as by a throw of the dice, in an unthinking and alien manner.”[v] This comparison with “a throw of the dice” does not mean that the oracle is regarded as arbitrary; rather, the Greeks saw the oracle more as a form of higher authority or a source of divine communication. But in this figure we mark out the limits of our own thinking: where it is turned inside out as unthinking, a state of conscious unconsciousness. We rely on something we do not fully understand. In a sense, all actions are oracular. What comes after the oracle? That “after” seems to spontaneously disregard the oracle’s very premise as a trans-temporal entity, freely oscillating between “no longer” and “not yet.” The transformation consists in the oracular authority going from external nature to something inherent in subjectivity itself. For Hegel, that interiorisation happened with Socrates. The post-oracle lives inside him. It is still the person who speaks and makes decisions, but it is something else, too—something other than Socrates himself: “It is a voice, and whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do, but it never encourages me to do anything.”[vi] It is a voice that mainly expresses itself in negative terms; it clarifies what ought to be avoided. ︎

[i] These variations are a play on the prefix “post-.” Post is a temporal marker that can be read in various ways. On the one hand, as the continuity of coming after something; on the other, as the discontinuity of moving beyond it. If the latter corresponds to a moment of dialectical sublation (Überwindung), then the former is more of an extension of something that we have left behind (Verwindung). The oracle is something that mediates between these two levels. It operates both with and beyond time. It is both contingent and determined. Oedipus, the tragic hero, has his fate revealed by the oracle. His oracular knowledge of the future causes that future (that is, it indirectly informs his actions, which lead to a certain outcome). But since the future is inevitable, that knowledge is simultaneously of no significance for the outcome. The variations are playful: in the first case (SUNRISE POST / ORACLE POST), “post” is more of a suffix, which follows from a kind of autistic logic: its meaning (“after”) actually contradicts the general idea of the prefix (“before”). According to the same logic, we could, of course, maintain that the word “long” should be changed into “looooooong” so as to match its own definition.

[ii] Saint Augustine, Confessions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 349.

[iii] Saint Augustine, Confessions, 349.

[iv] G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, vol. 1,Manuscripts of the Introduction and the Lectures of 1822–1823 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 545.

[v] G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 431.

[vi] Socrates, quoted in Ron Scapp, A Question of Voice: Philosophy and the Search for Legitimacy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020), 36.