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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Linhas de animismo futuro, the cover

Which one should we choose?

The paradoxico-metaphysics of the other - a teaser

Working with Jon Cogburn on a paradoxico-metaphysics of the other. This is just a teaser from the text just after defining metaphysiks as the project Heidegger criticizes and métaphysics as the project Levinas wants to embrace (to relinquish all forms of ontologism):

The central metaphilosophical question concerns the relation between métaphysics and metaphysiks? It is about how totality and transcendence relate. How can a project attending to totality and another attending to transcendence be put together? Or are they just incompatible? As metaphysicians we must at least try to make sense of a picture of reality that somehow juxtaposes both. We must thus unpack the following formula:
metaphysics = metaphysiks + métaphysique
In fact, the metaphysics that we believe has to underlie our reflections on receptivity as hospitality combines both. It attempts to provide a picture that discloses being and provides a view that is more than a momentary glance while doing justice to the transcendence brought about by the other. It is what we could call a metaphysics of the other. In other words, the dispensation of being that Heidegger sees as the one in the age of danger – and that privileges exposition as opposed to glancing and forgetting – becomes quite different when ontologism is dropped. To juxtapose the two projects – through an understanding of '+' in the formula that won't be completed before next chapter – is to focus on transcendence without a restriction to glancing particulars. What matters for the metaphysics of the other in the concern about exposing reality is that no universal is renounced in favor of an accommodation of particulars. Yet, no particular is left aside in the name of an enclosing universality. The tension expressed in the formula above is itself not far from the tension in receptivity between making justice to particular knocking the door – the particular that triggers perception – and the maintenance of an enclosing image of reality inside. To give up transcendence, and the particular outdoors, is to have a picture of an enclosing totality spinning in the void and ultimately a view of reality that can be fully captured to a point where nothing can come from outside and demand a genuine response. To give up an encompassing picture is to be resigned with passing particulars or recoiled in a systematic suspension of judgment that spells an indifference to the stranger. To add both projects, in contrast, is to maintain a picture of reality in general while making room for a transcendence such as a doorstep with a stranger.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

My last talk of the series in the LSU

The interruption: hospitality and the metaphysics of the others - Last Friday.

Ground and heteronomy: In a metaphysics of agents (like 3), autonomy is spread everywhere and anomy is a product of the plurality itself. How is heteronomy possible?
Phenomenology meets monadology: The interfaces between phenomenology and monadology: Husserl-Leibniz, Levinas-Whitehead.
The common cartesian heritage: the sphere of subjectivity as explanans, the rejection of substrata, the extended notion of experience (beyond sense experience), the centrality of perception.
Three solitudes:
1. Aristotelian solitude: a first substance (hypokeimenon, ousia prote) requires nothing but itself to exist, it is alone with is substratum.
2. Cartesian solitude: “any individual of the res cogitans or the res extensa does not require any other individual of these kinds to exist” (Whitehead, P&R, p. 144).
3. Levinasian solitude: an individual cannot rely on any other to be what it is, it is alone with its substantive (alone in its hypostasis).
It is a Levinasian solitude that keeps agent separated even in a monadological scenario (where there is a solidarity of all actualities).
Intersubjectivity and interdependence: Husserl feels the need for a monadology to avoid the risk of a “pure egology” where any other would be no more than the product of the intentional activity of a transcendental ego. He posits a monadology as an antidote to the solipsist tendency of a phenomenological analysis. Instead of sliding into metaphysics, he inaugurates the phenomenology of the ego before the other.
The alter-ego: Husserl conceives of the other as an alter-ego, a modification of myself, pre-figured by myself. It is an association in experience prompted by my intentional acts detecting an analog, and transfering what is inside me (the source of intentional acts) to what is inside the other.
A monadology of alter-egos: In Husserl's monadology, there is a private subjectivity of the self prior to any (known or unknown) connection with anything else. It's Hussel's primordial sphere that contrasts with the monadological thesis that the others are intrinsically connected to any self. (Whitehead's solidarity of all actualities)
Levinas' phenomenology of alterity: Levinas thinks that Husserl wants to be out of an egology through an egological path – the other is not a projection of the ego but what the ego is not. Phenomenology of alterity should pave the way for an ethics and not for an ontology. (Against the enterprise of turning the other into same.)
The gap: Levinas diagnoses a gap between the action of the agent and the agent that has to be present to act. The connection between them is a product of the hypostasis and is the first of all external relations. Levinas explores this through his phenomenology of laziness and tiredness. It is in this gap that action can be interrupted by the other while keeping the agent in place.
La tension : l'absence de substrat veut dire : il n'y a pas de substrat pour identifier la monade, seulement les prédicats, mais les prédicats ne sont pas ce que fait l'action, on a besoin d'un sujet, séparé mais identifié seulement par ses prédicats.
Four phenomenology-monadology tensions:
1. The other out of the present time: In Leibniz other monads are perceived through their very constitution forged in a prior time. For Levinas, time is made of the relation between of a subject and alterity. The other is fully exterior as solitude is part of the structure of any existent. The other is without the existent. (Primordial sphere?)
2. The alter-ego: The other is perceived as a variation of the self and therefore understood with one's own resources. Levinas understands that the other cannot be modeled before reception, before the encounter – always exterior to one's existence.
3. The agenda: The other is perceived through the agenda of the agent – through one's predications and in a subjective form - understood only from my viewpoint (Shaviro: The other prompting self-enjoyment and the other prompting concern.)
4. The ready-made monad: The Leibnizian monad is pre-determined in all its changes. The Whiteheadian actual entity is aimed at self-fulfillment and never changes path – just becomes something else.
Is there a way to bring together Levinas' phenomenology of alterity and (neo-)monadological thinking? Both neo-monadologies and Levinas intend to make room for external relations. But exteriority is conceived in different ways: prehension vs interruption (self-enjoyment vs concern), alliance—making vs responsibility, solidarity vs solitude.
Two avenues of convergence:
1. Both make process philosophies possible: reality is constituted by an interaction with others, by a plurality of determinations. Neo-monadologies explain the world in terms agents. A phenomenology of alterity explains the world in terms of responsibilities. They provoke responses after a demand is placed in the gap between agent and action. Responsibility is infinite while action is finite. (Derrida: reality is constituted by undecidable decisions.)
2. There could be a monadology of hospitality (instead of solidarity). Hospitality requires an inner space that can host the other (the solitude, the gap). Because there is an (externally constituted) inner space, these monads would be more open than the neo-monadological ones. Within the framework of (possible) hospitality, monads can be interrupted and then decide to take responsibility. The presence of a decision could make it seem that monads are free to chose heteronomy, but the phenomenology of the gap makes it clear that a decision itself is forced by a demand – the interruption by the other. It is also important to distinguish between substrata and substantives (the result of the hypostasis) – that is, between Aristotelian and Levinasian solitudes. Levinasian solitude is not what makes the agent particular, but what makes the agent an agent.
A monadology of fragments: Monads exist in two simultaneous modes: they are fragments to be part of compositions, they are already compositions and they are composers. Do these monads have enough Levinasian solitude to be genuinely interrupted by others?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Capitalism and reaction

Since I read Silvia Federici's claim that capitalism is rather reactionary (and not a progressive step) is her Calliban and the Witch great book the claim haunts me. First of all it contains the most straightforward antidote against accelerationism; there is no point in furthering capitalism or outcapitalizing it for it is a source of reaction and not of progress. Accelerationists have always relied on the idea that looking at ways of life that preceded capitalism is the reactionary move for it is like setting the clock backwards. Noys and others have criticized accelerationism for this single track metaphysics of historical change. But if we add to this critique Federici's claim we get a quite interesting picture: looking back is not looking at other forms of power that capitalism displaced and deterritorialized, but it is to look at the other forms of resistance and fight that capitalism silenced. In other words, it is looking at what could have happened if the old forms of power were dissolved in a different way. It is not enough to dissolve oppressive structures like traditional communities or religious hierarchies, they have to be dissolved in an advantageous way, in a way that promotes justice. At this point the accelerationist would cite Marx and Deleuze & Guattari to support the claim that much has been gained by getting rid of structures of a feudal mode of production and a despotic territorial machine. The Federician would then reply that the fight was under way and capitalism just pre-empted the more interesting results to come through. The non-accelerationist is forced to look into the fabric of the social that capitalism disrupts - is it just traditionalism or are there seeds of something else?

It is a complicated discussion and Federici faces it by historical considerations starting with the mass murder of the witches. When you look at what happened since the 60s of last century, maybe there is also a case for the Federici claim. Civil rights movement, Stonewall, the second wave of feminism, students protests, psychodelia and alternative life were all instrumental to displace some traditionalist forms of power. They did deterritorialize. They were to a great extent incorporated in capitalism by creating new markets and by informing libertarians. It is clear that through this incorporation they lost most of their biting force - they become no longer about different modes of life, of desire, of pleasure and of sharing the sensible but rather about inclusion. They became extremists, to use the vocabulary Pasolini crafted towards the end of his life. They fought for inclusion so that the previously discarded became individuals (capable to create families and to buy their living with a working force). Today I felt like saying: it's here, it's before us, in front of us the reactionary character of capitalism, it's happening again and again everywhere: replace unions with pension funds, replace the struggle for income with the increase in credit, replace the efforts to build sustaining communities by the demand for different forms of family. It's all there before us: an engine of reaction.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Universal metaphysics - the Priest-Garcia-Cogburn approach

Alexandre Costa-Leite and I have been postulating a universal metaphysics that go hand in hand in the path open by universal logic. Such metaphysics doesn't stop anywhere short of the logically impossible for it is not tied to a logical system in particular. Rather, it considers all the different logics in order to take modal (and post-modal) notions such as necessity, causation and ground as indexed to a particular galaxy (a set of possible world corresponding to a logic). To be clear, universal metaphysics can take several forms; let's consider four:
a) It can take the form of a refusal of the great picture, and so there are no metaphysical conclusions that could encompass all galaxies at once. One could have metaphysical claims about each galaxy, but only in a contrastive manner and so the each-all inference would not hold - having metaphysical claims about each galaxy entails nothing concerning all the galaxies.
b) It can take the form of assuming one specific logic - say, the classical one - and consider that there are relevant arguments, maybe based on entrenchment, that would make this logic better than any other and the one to be preferred for a non-neutral but yet absolute and coherent set of metaphysical claims.
c) It can assume that metaphysical claims can be made about all galaxies and pay the price of contradiction - universal metaphysics would be incoherent, paradoxical; in this view, something consistent could be said about each specific galaxy, but nothing consistent could be said about all galaxies but still something paraconsistent could be said about all galaxies and we assume that contradictions don't undermine determinations.
d) It can simply deny the possibility of any metaphysics and derive an anti-metaphysical argument from the plurality of galaxies along the following lines: once logic is crucial for any metaphysical claim (because, for instance, one needs the space of possible worlds defined) and once there are many logics, then there is no ground for any metaphysical claim whatsoever. Universal metaphysics then become no metaphysics.

I used to understand these alternatives in terms akin to those presented by Kit Fine in his "Tense and Reality". There he primarily considers the relation between perspectives and reality as it appears in the problem of time in McTaggart. Fine considers four possibilities: the denial of the existence of time (which would be akin to alternative d), the denial that reality is absolute to claim that it is scattered, dependent on perspectives and encompassing no totality, what he calls perspectivism (akin to a), the denial that reality is neutral by assuming a presentist approach to tense according to which only what is now the case exists (akin to b) and the denial that reality is coherent and the assumption of what he calls fragmentalism where there are fragments of consistent reality that add up to a non-consitent über-reality (this is akin to c). The adoption of a universal metaphysics of the type c would involve the paradoxical conclusion that there are inconsitencies - or contradictions - in the world. Here, of course, one can just bite the bullet and say that we find contradictions because there they are.

Jon Cogburn, based on the work of Priest and Livingston, have developed the idea of a paradoxo-metaphysics. He presents it in his well-crafted Garcian Meditations with respect to the metaphysics espoused by Tristan Garcia. The general idea can be introduced considering a metaphysics that would entail that metaphysics is impossible - the task of metaphysics then could be constructed as that of giving a maximally general account of what reality is like such that metaphysics is impossible. The consequence could be to drop the ladder after climbing through it. But one could refuse such a move and this is indeed the gesture Priest does with respect to paradoxes such as Russell's: he embraces the paradoxical situation that a Russell set is both a member and not a member of the universe of sets. He then posits contradictions in the world (dialetheas). This is a first case of paradoxico-metaphysics. Cogburn goes on to show how this works in Garcia's metaphysics: Garcia embraces an allism, in Lewis terms, according to which everything is – it is sufficient to be determined, or to have a property, to be something. Now, the world most surely has properties and is determined, but it is not distinctively something. As Garcia holds that a contradictory determination is still a bona fide determination (a white and non-white surface is still determined because it cannot be a only-white surface, say), Cogburn feels inclined to ascribe him with a version of paradoxico-metaphysics. And he contrasts this position with that of Marcus Gabriel who denies the existence of the world - acting as if an alternative akin to a would be a best bet. Garcia, he argues, would rather go for a full-blooded paradoxical position akin to fragmentalism and to c.

Now, paradoxico-metaphysics opens a horizon for universal metaphysics. Cogburn puts it in terms of Priest's analysis of Russell's paradox according to which the main steps are Existence (or Being), Transcendence and Closure. The acceptance of the three premisses would entail a contradiction and, if the contradiction (i.e. the paradox) is welcomed, would entail a position akin to fragmentalism or c. Those are the full-blown paradoxico-metaphysical doctrines. Further, if Existence is denied to avoid the paradox, one is back to a position like a; one can also deny Transcendence to avoid contradiction and then argue for a position like b or deny Closure to also avoid contradiction and end up close to d. So it seems like Fine's categories more or less map into Priest's. And further his option for fragmentalism also goes in the direction of paradoxico-metaphysics.

But a number of questions concerning universal metaphysics remain. The most pressing ones relate to the way one is to go about, say, paradoxico-metaphysics. How should one count, relate or otherwise individuate contradictions? The common way to proceed is the same as in universal logic: to use a classical meta-logic. Could paradoxico-metaphysics provide an alternative to classical metametaphysics?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The conscripted Other

Discussing Heidegger's Einblick in das was ist I considered monadologies - are they symptoms of the age of danger thinking through co-existence? I had in mind the kind of thinging thing that the Other is. Ge-Stell requires the conscription of the Other, the neutralization of the Other into a Gegen-stand, ie. a transformation of the Other in an exteriority exposed in principle, part of a world that can be in view as unveiled, as unguarded, as incapable of concealment. Now, there is a sense in which monadologies are attempts to bring in co-existence, the Other, into the picture challenging the idea of a world that can be in view. Having Being Up For Grabs in mind, I would say that also an ontology of doubts that addresses insufficient reason and a rhythm-oriented ontology that stresses the transduction lines between those seen and those that behold attempt to build metaphysics of the non-conscripted, away from the predicaments of the age of danger as they introduce what is up for grabs, what is offered as such to metaphysics. Monadologies, in particular, endeavor to bring the Other as a capacity to alter the world, the Other becomes capable of othering (the other othering is maybe a case of the thing thinging). However the world in view featured by Ge-Stell in the age of danger is in most monadologies rather multiplied than dissolved as the Other becomes at least one of the three:
a) away from the present time (that happens in Leibniz where the interaction with any other pre-exists the time of perception and action);
b) an image of the ready for conscription in the form of "I unveil the other because she is similar to me" and therefore faced ontologically as the reduction of the other to a same – the alter-ego, the other of the same (this happens in Husserl's monadology, but arguably also in Tarde's and Whitehead's) or
c) the other-for-me, the other in the agent's agenda and therefore ready for my perusal (this I suspect happens in Whitehead's and in Latour's monadologies).

Einblick in das was ist: Heidegger and the world in view

Today I presented here at the LSU my reading of the Einblick, guided by my attempt to build a (non-ontologist) metaphysics of the other and by my interest in perception - in the ethics of perception and in perceiving as a concern with what nears and shows. Below is the handout I distributed. I organized the presentation around several key oppositions in the text that interest me, most involving Ge-Stell and the idea of objects ready to be conscripted.


Nähe/Ge-Stell: The setting apart of all distances brings no nearness: nearness is not short distance. Nähe is not about distance, it's about a presence that is not forced, it's about not placing something in a map, but approach it where it makes itself present. In contrast, Ge-Stell is a self-gathered collection of positionings that works like a device that produces objects exposed, mapped, available, in standing reserve. The issue is about placing, presentating and presencing. Nearing is the essence of nearness – approaching.

Thing/object: The object is what is exposed, what stands against a viewpoint that makes it visible. The thing, in contrast, does its own thing, it approaches and reveals itself at its own accord: the thing things (Nähe). When Plato thinks of the jug as an idea appearing to the producer, he is not engaging with the thing but positioning its appearance. What makes a jug be a jug is the empty that it holds, what makes the jug jug, the thing thing. A jug holds and awaits to offer. The empty prefigures the gift: holding and outpouring. When its essences atrophies, pouring becomes just pouring in and out. In the gift of the pour, earth and skies, divinities and mortals abide, “they belong together”, the Geviert. A thing is what gathers – brings together what is scattered. This gathering is not a gathering of positions in a point (it's no topography). Rather, it is engaging with what is gathered from nearness – a gathering to bring together different forces or urges, an articulation, a negotiation (business). The thing concernfully approaches, its presencing is not a position in a topography. The thing things: gathering is always an act; thing is the meeting place and not the abbreviation for its relations and its positions. The essence of nearness – approaching (with concern). A thing offers itself, an object is exposed, presented (that is, made present), given. Ge-Stell transforms things in objects; it makes them presence as what is ordered to be present. (Kant's things in themselves are objects that are not objects for anyone, they are already understood as being there, as composing a landscape that can be viewed – even if no possible experience can attain them.)

Guarding/exposing: Things don't come through machinations of the humans, but they also don't come without the vigilance of the mortals (humans). Things need vigilance for they are gatherings, offerings, approaches and they reveal and conceal.Vigilance is not unconcealing, it is not making things present. Vigilance requires commemorative thinking, it also requires letting things concealed. Care/security, Invigilating/spying. Perception: to exercise nearness (to engage) or to take in what is revealed (to expose). We place, set things in a position and therefore we make possible their requisitioning; positioning, exposing what is available. Ge-Stell is a conscription (die Gestellung): place what is available in standing reserve. Tending the fields as being watchful of what the discretion of the growing forces in the crops contrasts with farming the land. Ge-Stell replaces gathering with conscription – an order that is orderable. Ge-Stell is the essence of technology (science is an application of the essence of technology). Ge-Stell doesn't guard the thing as thing. Ge-Stell let things unguarded, away from their truth – not protected (un-veiled). Wahrnis-Wahrheit: Das Ge-Stell läßt in seinem Stellen das Ding ohne die Hut — ohne die Wahr seines Dingwesens. Things are in greater and greater neglect – to guard is not to expose.

World/Ge-Stell: In the unguarding of the thing, there takes place the refusal of the world: there is no world of things that refer to the Geviert of God/Sky/Earth/Mortals but only a reservoir of what is available in standing reserve. World guards the being of being. But it is proper of the world to refuse itself as a world – it is not offered as a world, as a guardian of being. It guards but leaving it unguarded – concealed, not exposed. World and Ge-Stell are the same, but the same is never equivalent. World and Ge-Stell are set against one another. World that worlds contrasts with the world in view, the latter is a step towards the disclosure and unveiling which is proper of Ge-Stell. The essence of Ge-Stell is danger; danger that is associated with pursuit (Nach-stellen, fara, gefahr). Pursuit requires things that can be found, the world ready to be viewed, perception as disclosure. Things are placed in a landscape in view, the Great Outdoors that rest unguarded.

Alethea/the world in view: World withdraws in concealment. There ought to be lethe for alethea, alethea doesn't displace lethe, but rather welcomes it for without lethe alethea cannot guard. Unconcealment is about presencing – alethea relies on concealment (physis kriptestai philei). So, lethe is the essential source and essential provenance of every way of being. Ge-Stell ousts being from its truth.

Physis/thesis: There is thesis to physis – physis is bringing-here-forth, it is the opening of something closed from itself: that is to say, letting something presence of its own accord. Showing. Thesis arrange a presence in a position, this is what humans do to the presencing of physis. Then a stone presenced by physis is arregimented into a staircase and its steps by thesis. Here we see how thesis disguises itself trying to present things as if they presence in the thesis way, and not in the physis way. As if they were in view, exposed, out there always. Physis gives unconcealment to human representation and place it at their disposal. An offer – this is representable, not yet represented. When things are represented, they become placed to be viewed, no longer offerings but in standing reserve for the sensorial devices to grasp. Ge-Stell is a dispensation of being (Seinsgeschickes) where to be is to be placed, to be set, to be a position in a (thethic) topology. The world becomes a landscape of points, and being exposed and never interrupted.

Mortal/Ge-Stell: The thing gathers and is offered to the human who exercises an essence (a thing that things) while Ge-Stell places objects in front of the human. The human is conscripted by Ge-Stell. “The human has offered himself for the carrying out of this conscripting. He stands in line to take over such requisitioning and to complete it. The human is thereby an employee of requisitioning.”(22, AM). Requisitioning assaults the destiny of the human as it does with gods: a theology based on atomic physics would makes gods orderable. The essence of the human is not decided by humans in their own terms and Ge-Stell sneaks through it. It is not up to the human to fight it, but the human can pave the way or precipitate the turn towards a different dispensation of beyng. The human can collaborate in the turn (not predictable because it involves another Seinsgeschickes) by replacing exposing by guarding, by being tuned to concealment through forgetting. Forgetting is guarding. The salvation lies in guarding, in the world worlding for the world is the forgetful guard of things. Ge-Stell disguises the thing and also the unthinging of things, like forgetting forgets the very act of forgetting. It presents things as if the world is itself always in view, ready to be seen, spotted. It is necessary to let being escape from this pursuit, we need to forget how we let it escape. The sudden salvation from danger comes in protecting forgetfulness.

Glancing/the world in view: Forgetfulness is close to seeing things in a glance – a glance leaves the concealed unilluminated. It is like the light of the Pasolini's firefly. The Blick is an Einblick. The insight is an insight, not a permanent light as not even God could have insights about the world without essencing in the worlding of the world that involves concealment (compare with Wittgenstein's “not even God could know anything mathematical without doing mathematics” PU 352, RFM; mathematical objects are not placed in a position where they are in view by someone, attaining them requires some sort of careful approach that understands that under a different angle they will disappear from one's view, they will be concealed) A world in view (a world of objects, maybe in themselves) is a world that can be viewed by someone else, by God. Glancing is engaging in the thinging of things, in their approaching, in their showing, as opposed to a contemplation of a landscape where objects are set.