It would be good to remember the basic phenomenon or process to which the arcanum Endeavor refers. Human beings apparently have the capacity to give birth to new laws. Perhaps all of them have this capacity, or perhaps it’s only ones who have exceptional talents, or ones who are thrown into exceptional situations, or both; but in principle anyone who is capable of using language, making and revising commitments, and detecting urges they do not quite understand is capable of ‘genius’, which is the capacity to serially give birth to a new law, which is essentially to receive a revelation from God, or the Future.

It is incredibly difficult to pin down precisely what counts as a valid Endeavor and what does not. There are examples of Endeavor in all different domains of human culture. In various domains of science, various domains of the arts, various domains of politics we see geniuses suffering in the name of visions which appear crazy, immoral or dangerous to the conventional world. Are artistic projects and scientific projects two different ‘versions’ of the same basic phenomenon, Endeavor? Maybe so, maybe not. Does falling in love really count as a type of Endeavor? Are religious prophets pursuing authentic Endeavors? What about powerful, charismatic leaders who have belief systems that are different from that of the person trying to build a general theory of Endeavor?

The idea of Endeavor seems to require that a criterion or set of criteria be layed down to distinguish between authentic Endeavors and false ones. Deleuze and Guattari rise to the challenge in developing the concept of the “cancerous” Body without Organs, which is essentially a ‘bad’ endeavor as opposed to the ‘good’ version described by the concept of the ‘empty’ and ‘full’ variety. I believe Badiou has something to say about false generic procedures, or occlusionary reactions to events. These aren’t philosophers I read anymore, so I’m a bit cloudy on how their concepts all hang together, but I bring them up just to make the case that ultimately it is a contingent and personal philosophical decision that lays down criteria for developing a typology of Endeavors and a set of criteria for separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

My inclination is to set the bar extremely high. The philosophers I just mentioned seem to seek to set the bar as low as possible, so as to be egalitarian and to escape representation, norms and History. But in doing this, they’re inadvertently importing their prejudices as members of French intellectual culture in the 60s-80s. Atheism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-capitalism. The ironic result is that they discourage their readers from really attempting to think, from being open to authentic religious experience, and from prioritizing mental health and close personal relationships - encouraging bleary-eyed narcissistic magic a la Henry Miller, which certainly has a certain magic, but which at the end of the day can be said to manifest a somewhat lower level of consciousness that it could. I don’t think this attitude is tenable in 2019, and it’s easy to critique it as infected by the control society mode of capitalism that was just being born at that time (explaining why these thinkers are dominant in philosophy during the 21st century, now that the control society is flourishing; capital wants us narcissistic, self-righteous and confused, so it allows all these mangled post-structuralist texts to lure us in with their seeming edgy glow).

In my view a project only counts as an Endeavor if it explicitly aims to give birth to a future society that is fundamentally superior to capitalist secularism, features an explicit account of world history and offers a path to authentic spirituality. It must contain within its own frame of activity an account of the distinction between personal freedom (mental health), social emancipation (politics), technological emancipation (the progress of science), and true artistic activity (which is necessarily a religious synthesis between music, drama and philosophy) and it must attempt some kind of synthesis that is not simply a collapse of distinctions.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t real genius producing new laws here and there all across the social field that does not meet this criterion, but it does mean that those modes do not stand a chance of ultimately doing anything other than inadvertently drawing civilization towards its own auto-destruction.