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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Severino's strong permanentism


Severino's neo-parmenidism is a stronger form of what Williamson called permanentism: everything exists permanently. In Severino's stronger version, not only actual entities are permanent but relations, qualities, events and states of affairs are never created and never perish. Any transformation is the turn of something into nothingness or the reverse - at least of a state in the space of qualities and relations. He holds that time never interferes with being - just with appearance. Selective permanentism makes room for turning something into nothing in order for transformation to take place. Severino's anti-nihilism understands every existing thing as permanently existing - apart from what appears. Further, in his later system, he understands that appearances are themselves necessary. In any case, his strong permanentism seems to entail a form of necessitism that could be formulated as follows: if x exists, x exists necessarily permanently. The dispute between necessitism and contingentism (or around permanentism in general) could be adapted to that stronger scenario if we quantify over any existent. There is no contingency and therefore no alteration. Everything remains what it is, if it is. It could be presented in different forms - exposed in different forms - but it is permanently archived. These different forms of presentations are such that each is itself permanently archived, and presented in different forms of presentation.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Wahl effect

Been attentive to the effect of Wahl style empiricism grounded on genuine multiplicity and separation on both a Levinasian and a Deleuzian metaphysics. (It is again my old suspicion that there is much to be explored in the intersection of those projects.) In both cases, clearly the issue of grounding has to be thought in terms that undermine both the ideas of autonomy (or agency) and heteronomy (or surrender of agency); the very idea of freedom-cum-responsibility is dissolved. Autonomy always has its bright moment - the moment of escape, of response, of breaking out. This is the traveling out, no Ithaca to return to, the D. H Lawrence kind of trip Deleuze praises - the act of evading (or of incomplete becoming). Autonomy in this sense is what provides the opening or the vulnerability that makes one transcend, be affected, be contaminated. Deleuze understands this in sort of Tardean terms: other societies present in the space between two social links whenever a social link is not strong enough to abolish an open space. Levinas understands this bright moment of autonomy in terms of the moment for a response which is clearly and paradoxically the moment of an opening to a heterodetermination. Levinas says that freedom leads to responsibility and therefore away from freedom (De l'existence à l'existant, 115). That is to say, autonomy is an open door to heteronomy. This is the bright moment: it ushers in heterodetermination. The dull moment of autonomy is what often follows from the effort to keep the opening of autonomy open. That is, when it becomes a project, a governing option: I decided I will follow this course of action no matter what; by doing that, I'm already, in Levinasian terminology, blocking any interference, any interruption, any demand for a response. In Deleuzian terms, it is when autonomy becomes a ruling body, and creates a fascism of the self. Then it becomes an heteronomy, it becomes a governing body that one is faithful to no matter what. Autonomy leads to heteronomy both in its bright and in its dull moment. This suggests that heteronomy itself has its bright and it dull moments.

I was dragged into a discussion about sexual orientation as an option. To be sure, if it were and option, a whole bunch of consequences would unfold and some of us will feel liberated from what they perceive as bodily (social, genetic, whatever) chains. But what would it mean for sexual orientation to be an option? Especially if we add to the picture the scenario where sexual preferences are more or less fixed and one cannot change them at one's leisure even if it was established by choice to begin with. How would that scenario look like? It would involve more autonomy. We wouldn't be demanded by desire and wouldn't have to respond to it, but rather we would be immune to the seduction of rest of the world, to be open to the cosmos by the very structure of desire. The lack of autonomy is the lack of immunity and the lack of immunity is what makes interruption possible. Without interruption one would just be on one own following a determination - like a Leibnizian monad following what was set when this world was chosen among infinite others or like a self-sufficient autodetermination that follows from the sexual option already chosen. To follow one's chosen sexual orientation would then look like following an order - to close the door, and to give up the bright moment of autonomy.

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?