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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

BUG's last paragraph

For those (like me) waiting to see BUG (my book Being Up For Grabs out, I post the last paragraph included in the book. It is not the last one in the book, but will appear almost towards the end. The second round of proofs is done so it looks like September will be its season.

In order to deal with the plurality akin to contingency, I have introduced three ontoscopies. The idea in each case is to show that, because not everything is up for grabs and sumbebeka prota ton onton, there is a structure around contingency either making it possible or following from it. Each ontoscopy is a way to view contingency – it can be described as point of view about what is up for grabs. It is interesting to pursue this line for a moment now that we are coming towards the close of the book. We can then find, at least, three points of view: that of the agents, that of the resulting action and a transversal point of view where the effects of agents on actions are considered in a pair with the effects of actions on agents. These three points of view correspond to the three ontoscopies: the monadology of fragments, the ontology of doubts and the rhythm-oriented metaphysics. It is clear that contingency is transcendent if we take the second point of view, but not the others – as the resulting action will involve indeterminacies no matter what the agents engage in doing. If we see the ontoscopies along these lines, we can associate them to the three different modes of existence that the monadology of fragments, the first ontoscopy, affords. The first point of view is that of composers – of agents performing their action. The second of compositions – the resulting doubtful output of all agents. The third of fragments as they are simultaneously available to composers and part in a composition. Modes of existence are not ontoscopies, yet each one arguably entail a point of view. If this is so, the first ontoscopy, postulating three modes of existence, prefigures the overall picture.

Infinite in the trace

In order to make clear the Levinasian character of Derrida's deconstruction today I started my class today on the inscription face/trace. Then I went on saying that there is an infinite in the trace, and therefore an infinite in the text that cannot be fully absorbed and appeals not to be turned into a concept. A text is there to be encountered, and each of these encounter occasions spell its infinity, its openness, its character as Other. To make a text say something specific - and we can turn to papers in a scientific tradition - it has to come with a curatorial device, a orientation that enforces one reading by trying to make sure only readers from a common set of practices will approach the text and read it. The set of practices brings about a canonic reading and text itself can collaborate in strengthening these practices. It would be like taking someone's face to belong somewhere - to be a natural woman, a member of an ethnic group, someone from a subculture - and then maybe also the person can help out reading herself as the such. Still, to see infinity in the face is to read it out as something that precedes and transcends every concept.

A topic that emerges from the constellation I draw in Excesses and Exceptions is that to position something in a space is stop caring for its singularity. In Die Gefahr, Heidegger contrasts Wahr and being neglected (neg-legere). Wahr is true and also care - something like being entrusted. This 'being entrusted' is crucial in deconstruction: a text is entrusted to someone who exercises the ingratitude of accepting it as a gift (the ingratitude is perhaps a transcendental violence) and to read it is to take care of it, to be close to its (infinite) truth. Very different from placing it in a topography where its truth is concealed as it is turned into a concept. To deconstruct is to extract text from a curatorial package - from a set of traditions that inscribe a reading, but don't feel entrusted by the infinite in its traces. Deconstruction is like entrusting texts to a library that engages different librarians everyday.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The ethics of perception: reading and building a nexus

Whitehead understands creativity to be inherent to perception. Also, he sees perception as tied to an indirect object, an (broadly speaking) intentionally developed subjective form. If we see perception as a kind of reading, we can take it as always part of building a nexus, making sense of what is in front of one in terms of what is important, of what makes difference, of what one is prepared to read out. Reading has an ethics perhaps because it requires some kind of nearness that contrasts with what just stands, in the terms of Heidegger, in a position (Ge-Stell) and acquires a standing reserve that indicate an equal distance from everything - a position in a topology where everything is placed in a map that could be conceptual, geographical or like a B-series in time. Things placed there don't thing (as Heidegger says), they just stand in a distance, in the equal distance of eveything like what in a de dicto expression for something. Reading - and at least in some circumstances perception - requires a nearness which is requisite for an interlocution. Reading requires an attention of the sort Heidegger would find in physis, a movement of unconcealment from the concealed that requires the accord of what is unveiled, the thinging of the thing, the opposite of a standing reserve. Reading is only possible from nearness. We only read what is near to us.

Because reading requires a presence in terms of nearness (one cannot focus on more than one reading) it can be interrupted or, as I wrote in a recent post in this blog an intettuption. To be called somewhere else within the text is to attend to its movements of concealing and unconcealing - the physis of the read text. It follows from Derrida's conception of deconstruction that these movements cannot be positioned in a topography as presences but only as traces waiting for a reader. Reading is to attend to these movements and to inscribe something on these movement because the reader is also near to the read text, she is also close and addressed by these movements. The reader also has a physis according to which she conceals and unconceals: she does a writing because she reads. This attention to what is close, to what is being written at the same time and to what can interrupt the flow of reading (intettupt) introduced a responsibility to the act of reading - primarily, a response to the author, to the traces of the author in the text. The close traces that appear: they constrain the reading (the writing) with their acts of concealment in the background of what remains unconcealed. Reading responds to justice - and there are indefinitely many ways to respond to it.

Now, maybe perception is like reading. I believe that if perception is not understood in terms of positionality, it requires nearness. It would be about making a contact that is not necessarily cognitive. If this is so, perception is like reading: it brings about a nexus attending to a matrix of importances, of differences, of capacities to respond. But like reading, it is never writing in a blank slate, it is more like a dialogue where the traces perceived call for responsibility, but the response required is the response of an author (Whitehead's creativity) and not that of whoever follows orders. If it is so, perception is not an exercise in receptivity (in the sense of following orders from a different agent) but more like an exercise of coupling, of counting on what is perceived. (Think of the nearness required for an alliance to be craft, for a deal to be made, for dialogue to take place.) As such, perception has an ethics, that of attending to the demand coming from what is perceived. Such appeal is not an order, but inculcates responsibility. Perceiving agents are not only endowed with creativity, a sense of satisfaction and a goal - they also have a vulnerability to the other they perceive. They can be affected. This is why a nexus built in perception doesn't leave the perceiver in standing reserve (at an arm's length from what is perceived).



Thursday, 30 June 2016

The diaspora of epistemic properties

Been thinking in terms of the spread of epistemic properties in the world. Monadologies, typically, assume that all monads, unities of agency, are capable to perceive and often to know. The presence of such properties - that could be less than full-blown knowledge but still epistemically loaded - is a feature of the world. A metaphysics of epistemology, if we can call it this way. So, the issue is whether thermometers, sunflowers, red billiard balls or ticks genuinely know or genuinely have some epistemic properties.

The issue, as I see it, has to be dealt in connection with that of where to find doxastic properties and aletic properties. Epistemic properties are, I claim, independent of doxastic properties. I don´t find very relevant (or very interesting) to claim that thermometers cannot know anything because they don´t have beliefs. Beliefs are good support for epistemic properties, but they are not necessary. There could be non-dosxastic supports, I suppose - if epistemic properties cannot be present if there are no beliefs, we miss the point of the discussion of whether sunflowers genuinely enjoy epistemic properties. On the other hand, epistemic properties require aletic properties - as knowledge requires truth. But epistemic properties are not only aletic properties. To claim that a sunflower knows where the sun is is to say that it has more than a correct opinion about it - epistemic properties are to be more invaluable than mere truth. The issue concerning the size of the diaspora of epistemic properties is not about the diaspora of truth-detectors. There are truth-detectors everywhere as I take to be trivial that sunflowers often detect truths. Aletic properties are very spread. But truth-detectors could be prey of epistemic luck.

Now, another issue concerning epistemic properties, is that their dispersion in the world could be associated to what I could call "counter-epistemic properties". These have to do not with what X can capture (know, perceive, remember) but with what X shows (displays, makes available, presents to perception or knowledge). I think of this issue in terms of considering a knower as a voyeur, but in the more general case, a voyeur who sees something that can decide what is to be shown (and when, and for how long). The knower is a voyeur like a client in a peep-show. If it is so, what one shows - as opposed to what one is - is a different, counter-epistemic property. And here again, a distinction similar to that between epistemic and aletic properties can be drawn. To show something by chance is to be prey of some sort of luck that we can call counter-epistemic luck. For instance, it is arguable that a mouse that briefly venture into open space in her way somewhere else shows herself for by chance. She can be viewed, but it is different than what the bird-watchers look for when they go with their binoculars to see the early fauna: those birds systematically show themselves up at these time. To see the mice is to detect some truths, but what is shown is not part of a counter-epistemic property, it is maybe a mere case of counter-aletic property. To show, as much as to know, requires something like what fixes the Dedalus statues to the floor.

A face and a proper name

In my classes of contemporary philosophy (where I covered Kripke a while ago and Levinas and Derrida these last few weeks) I have been feeling close again to my somehow old book of 2008 (Excesses and Exceptions). There I make an unusual connection between Levinas and Kripke. In order to consider the issue of singularity and singular thought, I engage the Other of Levinas as bearer of an appeal againtst being turned into a concept and Kripke´s account of proper names that eludes description. It is not fair to have a semantics of reference that imposes on Socrates to be a philosopher (in all possible worlds). The proper name, like the face, breaks the articulated totality of my descriptions and introduces an element that is alien to the concepts that I own (and master). The passivity in both cases is crucial - my use of a proper name inculcates responsibility on me for something I´m not fully aware, just as the decision imposed on me by the Other´s face. Also, in both cases there is an element of justice to the other that contrasts with my freedom and therefore with my thinking in my own terms.

Both thoughts - that of the Other´s face and that of the irreducible proper name - depart somehow from the Anerkennung tradition. In fact, one could fear that both thoughts would get too close from the Given. Kripke´s take, to be sure, exorcises the Given from the start as there is no epistemology relevant to reference (no acquaintance of any thing of the sort). A proper name refers independently of what else I think or know - and, at the same time, I need to be prepared in order to fully refer to someone through a proper name. To be prepared, in this case, involves to be included in a set of conceptual practices within a language. Something similar can be said about Levinas´s Other. I need to be prepared, in terms of conceptual practices, to recognize a face, and given that, a face imposes a decision on me no matter what I know or think. This is the role of the infinity in the face: it contrasts with every point in a totality. If this is so, there is no genuine cognitive act in being stricken by a face - to use a variation of Wettstein´s motto for the revolution championed by Kripke, "ethical contact without cognitive contact". No matter what, I have to decide. (The book, Excesses and Exceptions, purports to present an account of singularity where it is presented to us passively even though a preparation could be required - a kind of response-dependence account of being in touch with something singular.) In both cases, something singular has to contrast with a ready totality - it has to be something like a vanishing point.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The personal is political

In the context of trying to briefly describe the nearness of Derrida and Levinas in my contemporary philosophy course and having in mind especially Derrida's "En ce moment même dans cet ouvrage me voici", I was drawing a distinction between interruption - an element of the articulation of a text, of its texture, of its engineering - and intettuption - an element of the personal that intrudes the text, as if an author or an addressee is suddenly made explicit. In the latter, the personal element in a text is brought up through the trace of the Other, the person who wrote "cet ouvrage" is made explicit not by a signature, but by an break. This is reminiscent of the Celan distinction (in Gespräch im Gebirg) between the language of the it, of the this on the one hand and that of me and you (thou). To intettupt is to address a second person - and therefore to be addressed by her.

My doctoral student Gabriela Lafetá, who succeeded in her Viva last Wednesday, discusses in her thesis Badleh's book (De Derrida a Levinas, la dette et l'envoi) where he seems to hold that deconstruction is a political and not an ethical gesture. In "En ce moment même dans cet ouvrage me voici", Derrida makes clear the personal character of the deconstructive interruption (an intettuption, in my terms). I was wondering that this personal character - this intettuption - is political. It doesn't make it less responsive to justice - and in a sense to the ethical - but it is where the personal is political, in the appeal brought in by a responsible reading, that is, the reading that finds authorship through the text. To be sure, because the personal is political, it brings to politics an element of the non-negotiable - it brings the impossible into the realm of politics, makes it personal.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Ontoscopies

I've decided I want to pursue the idea of a monadology of fragments sketched in BUG as one of the three ontoscopies of contingency presented in the book. In the book I'm finishing about monadologies (called "The diaspora of agency"), there will be a section on fragments that will show how a monadology could sort out some of the problems that Levinas sees in Husserl's version (his monadology in the last Cartesian Meditation) while retaining the central features of the monads. The idea will be that the monad will be conceived as a unity of response - or a unity of decision - and in that sense will gain agency only by being appealed by the other, by an other that is seen as its composer - and as such entirely different from itself. The idea began to be rehearsed here.

In order to do so, I'm examining again my notion of ontoscopy. As I wrote in a recent post, the ontology doubts can be seen as the flip side of a monadology of fragments. I wrote we can use the two sides of Sextus' epoché as an inspiration: having appearances and suspending judgments, the former would pair with fragments and the latter with doubts. Now I was wondering that there are (at least) three points of view (ontoscopies) that we can see contingency in world:

1) from the point of view of the agents,

2)from the point of view of the results of the agents's actions and

3)from a transversal point of view where agents are taken by actions and actions by other agents.

We can see these three points of view as what if behind respectively composers, compositions and fragments. Also, contingency is seen as transcendent if we favor 2 but not if we favor 1 and 3. However, my point is that if we take 1, we head towards a monadology of fragments, if we take 2, towards and ontology of doubts and if we take three towards a rhythm-oriented metaphysics. In other words, ontoscopies are genuine points of view on things - and these three points of view on contingency are such that one looks at agency, one looks at their outcome, and the other is transversal.