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Saturday, 8 October 2016

A sketch of a Manifesto for Polystylism in Philosophy (in its very first draft)

When speaking in an International Colloquium on Philosophy and Anthropology in October 1968 Derrida started bringing into question the politics of any international colloquium as such. The idea of the colloquium was to think the human through together with the anthropologists and therefore Derrida moves quickly towards what he takes to be the contribution he could give to the event: address the question of the human as it was conceived and discussed in France at the time (his contribution was called "Les fins de l'homme" and was published in Marges de la philosophie)). The idea that was behind his choice of subject - and it is interesting that his main concern is the insufficient and inattentive reading of German philosophers in France - was that he was going to provide some kind of account (not a report, but still a piece of news) about how philosophy has been done in the country where he comes from. It does sound as if the philosophical endeavor, in its most basic level, takes place in a national arena (or, perhaps, in the arena of a linguistic community). Much has taken place since 1968 - including the establishment of the Collège International de Philosophie by Derrida and others - and national borders have, in many senses, have become become less robust, especially when movement of anything but people is concerned. However, how is philosophy done today?

I believe it is done mostly in a rather parochial way. The standards of importance and relevance of an issue and those concerning what is the appropriate way to argue for an idea, to write a text, to propose an alternative, to defend a claim or to state a point of view remain often attached to single tradition Indeed, traditions are often very watchful of their borders. It is rare that a journal or an editorial house allow authors from a very different tradition to appear in the references of the texts they publish. Mostly, analytical traditions are kept separated from continental ones by means of the authors they allow their texts to think with while continental traditions reinforce the presence of their authors in their authors as the appropriate thinking companions. To be sure, there have been attempts to change this state of affairs, at least since the creation of the Collége in 1983. I have in mind some of the efforts to bridge the analytic-continental gap around Rorty and the pragmatists in the 1990s, the more recent ABC efforts about which I hope to find out more soon, and the speculative realist movement which started around 10 years ago and calls for a new time for philosophy where the different traditions become things of the past. Within this last effort, I commend the call for papers of the New Metaphysics Series under Harman and Latour which is "equally impatient with nail-filing analytic critique and the continental reverence for dusty textual monuments" and rather favor "the spirit of the intellectual gambler". This call was instrumental in the composition (and recet publication) of Being Up For Grabs in the collection. In fact, I have been fighting parochialism in philosophy by trying to make philosophers of different traditions converse around a topic or a theme or an atmosphere. I have found few partners in this bridging enterprise - almost enough to make for a small community of resonance, but they are far from being enough to cater entirely for one's philosophical needs. Partners include my mentor and metaphilosophical guru Julio Cabrera. Still, I feel we're still doing isolated efforts that can find no more than limited echo in the general directions philosophy take.

I find this generally parochial state of affairs deplorable. Not only it spells a limitation for philosophy as it important dialogues rarely take place (they are as occasional and scarce as the international colloquia in 1968) but it also makes philosophy inflexible and therefore unable to integrate different modes of thought that were either absent or disregarded in the past. In other words, it makes it for Feminist, Indian, African, Amazonian or Andean, as well as for nonprofessional philosophers very hard to be part of the ongoing conversation unless they fashion themselves in the existing traditions of thought. The maintenance of firm borders in the different traditions in philosophy strikes me therefore as colonial. I'm convinced that philosophy would do much better if it could genuinely welcome different forms of thought and different thinking companions. It will help getting different stories told - as Donna Haraway often stresses - and those stories would provide different points of departure for thinking. Also, philosophy should encourage different accents - I'm thinking again of Derrida who, in "Violence et Métaphysique" describes Levinas as thinking in Greek but with a foreign, Jewish accent. The plurality of accents would make conversations more polyphonic, less parochial, and more hospitable. It will really become an exercise of cosmopolitism for our times.

I guess we can model ourselves in polystylism. I'm thinking of Schnittke's (and to some extent Pousser's) music and everything that they inspired. The idea was to embrace a polyphony of styles in the form of a tapestry where music from different origins were woven together and would sound different from their original sound context. Schnittke once said he wanted to break the separation between popular and concert music even if he had to break his neck in the process. It helped him to compose both for cartoon films and for concert houses. Polystylism in philosophy would bring together in the same text different sorts of arguments, reference to different traditions and appeals to different tonalities. As in music, it will make it sound better, there will be more to listen/read in a piece - and more to respond to. It is time to abandon the idea of a philosophy with a single tool (be it a calculator or a hammer) and realize that the variety of instruments already explored in its history is available to us enhance thinking and welcome thinkers. I would like to see training in philosophy that will encourage texts (and conversations in the form of colloquia or general discussions) that intertwine together the kind of inspiration provided by the writing of Donna Haraway, the precision we find in Kit Fine, the broadness of connections present in Steven Shaviro and the attention to history championed by Pierre Hadot.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Deconstruction as process philosophy

Following the lines of the last post, I read Mooney's article "Whitehead and Derrida". He argues that there are important similarities between Whitehead's philosophy and deconstruction in Derrida. Specially when it comes to deal with substances, complete presences and contingency. Derrida's conception of writing as leaving traces agrees well with the idea of prehension as a perception that could live aside some things while keeping in them somehow what was not considered. The greatest contrast are precisely when it comes to Whitehead's subjective ends - the entity's agenda - that condition the action and cannot be set aside. What is interesting is that Mooney portraits Derrida as unhappy with what is presented in Whitehead because every code can be rewritten by adding supplement, and this is always done in reading itself. The limits to supplementing code is really justice: and that shows up in the form of a conversation (or a negotiation) among subjective ends. The subjective aim is either something that can be supplemented or is something that lies outside the sphere of deconstruction (and the process of constituting things through traces that never encode complete presences). Mooney fears that Whitehead would lie in the second alternative. If this is so, subjective aim is really the source of selfishness (and self-sufficiency, satisfaction, self-containedness) of the actual entity. There is in it (in the agenda of the agent) an element of closure perhaps different from that in Leibniz's monads - for aims are constructed together with each entity and not as part of a world previously chosen - but still closure. The closure is the closure of ontologism (see last post). It is therefore inherited from the belief that at the fundamental level of being, what exists is made of a pure interior (and not an exit sign placed in its heart).

Towards a non-ontologist monadology

I'm thinking how to develop the monadology of fragments, presented in Being Up For Grabs, which is described as a monadology of hospitality as it avoids what I call the problem of the selfish monad in the recently written book Diáspora da Agência (hopefully out next year). The problem of the selfish monad can arise when we consider Levinas criticism of Husserl's alter ego in the fifth Méditation. Shaviro, in the first chapter of The Universe of Things considers a similar problem when he contrasts Whiteheadian satisfaction and Lebinasian concern. The general problem, as I see it, is that monadologies and process philosophy are often done from the point of view of the agenda of the agents. Whitehead, for instance, builds a lot on subjective aims that are taken as conditioners of the life of an actual entity. There is a zeal with oneself present in each monad (and each actual entity) that cannot be completely taken away without making it perish. In Modes of Thought 8 ("Nature alive") Whitehead states the three characteristic of life: absolute self-enjoyment, creative activity and aim. Now, the organism as a unity of life (or of agency) is guided by these features - its movements and interactions with others are guided by its (subjective) aim. The aim makes it what it is - the agenda makes the agent.

Reading Levinas' contemporary text (contemporary to Modes of Thought, as first appeared in 1935, few years before Whitehead's lectures of 1837-8), De l'evasion, it became clear to me that a process philosophy can be derived from it. That would be a non-selfish process philosophy in that it would be a non-ontologist process philosophy (using Levinas understanding of ontologism as the belief that there is nothing beyond the all-encompassing being, we cannot think or conceive of anything apart from it). Levinas claims that if we consider our needs (besoins) we realize that they are different from a structure revolving around lack and that require satisfaction. He claims that needs point at some sort of thirst for evasion, a willingness to get out of a present state and he illustrates that with the state of sickness. A sick person is not missing something, she craves to get out of what she is - through vomiting. This crave is never satisfied, it is not about satisfaction but about a need to escape from being that characterize being itself. There is, in being a pointer to the exit, and that pointer reveals to us in the process of our urges and cravings. Levinas says in some places in the text that this is a general structure of being, an insufficiency of itself. Plus, becoming and creative activity are not good ways to describe this drive out as they are themselves being-oriented - plans are made to be realized. Levinas rather prefer to describe this general element in terms of a will to escape, or an excess in the being itself that is not fulfilled within the sphere of being. His analysis of the needs reveal that satisfaction doesn't get rid of them, it merely takes provisionally one out of an existing predicament. He picture the idea of satisfaction as hostage to an ontologist dogma that he endeavor to exorcize. At this point, his argument rests basically in the phenomenology of needs and in the presence of evasion.

I thought of an alternative process philosophy where instead of characterizing life in terms of self-enjoyment, creative activity and aim, in terms of evasion, insufficiency and excess. Self-enjoyment is limited by the will to evade that is present in needs and cravings - one doesn't die without satisfaction, but being itself seems to be nurtured from elsewhere. Creative activity is an expression of insufficiency, a quite endemic state as when the being created is realized, creativity - or rather, insufficiency - carries on in its pangs. Instead of aim, excess which points towards outside being and not another being. To be sure, Whitehead would try to understand all these new characteristics as derivative from his own ones. He could do that, but this wouldn't solve the problem of the selfish monad and, in this particular instance, would not take him beyond ontologism. What Levinas enables us to do is to posit evasion as a structural element in being, and not an accident that comes out or emerges from a self-satisfied, sufficient and well-contained (and selfish) being. All beings (existants) are such that they point to the exit, not because of something that happens to them in society (Whitehead would claim that changes happen in society, not in the actual entities revolving unchangingly around their aims, as he put in Adventures of Ideas, 204) but because they are constituted, as beings, in a duality where the exit is part of their interior (of their subjectivity).

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Linhas de Animismo Futuro

Terminei a última seção essa tarde e escrevi assim:

Os animismos são em geral exercícios de ressuscitamentos políticos. Trata-se de exercícios de descolonização, mas também de ampliação do âmbito do político deixando de lado a suposição de que há blocos apolíticos de inanimação com os quais só se pode negociar desde o lado de fora. Nesse sentido, são desnaturalizações do direito, não em favor de um direito positivo constituído, mas que façam prevalecer os momentos de constituição mesma de um direito. Assim, o movimento do ressuscitamento talvez seja um movimento que tenha que vir de muitas direções, das direções que estão sendo reanimadas. Trata-se de pensar no corpo em seus múltiplos pequenos movimentos que podem ser ecoados ou suprimidos. O corpo, ou o mundo animado, demanda uma escuta. Uma escuta de sujeitos entre assujeitados, uma escuta anciã e também ciborgue. E além da escuta, uma amplificação. Tatsumi Hijikata, um dos mais extremos inventores da dança butô, procurou entender no movimento do corpo os movimentos da inanimação e do ressuscitamento. Ele se interessa pelo gesto do corpo já posto em inanimação, encontrar o movimento milimétrico, o começo hesitante e imperceptível e amplificá-lo sem perder dele sua direção e sua novidade. Ele considera nossos corpos como cadáveres onde a vida é um resquício, e desse resquício é que se faz o movimento. Sua dança é a dança do ressuscitado, antes mesmo de ganhar a vida, antes mesmo de qualquer propósito. O butô, como tem defendido Caroline Marin, é o animismo pensável em uma era em que o fim do mundo, gradual e implacável, é notícia corriqueira.

Antler, em seu Follow Orders, prescreve a receita do desastre:1

Faça miniatura das grandes árvores, domestique flores selvagens,
cubra-as todas de plástico, ponha os botões sobre fios de cobre.
Compre a água, compre a terra, compre o céu.
Venda a água, venda a terra, venda o céu.

A receita termina com “Entre na sua limosine de muitos metros, jogue mil dólares
e grite ao motorista: 'Próximo universo, por favor.'”. Os animismos talvez possam ser entendidos da seguinte maneira: o que acontece quando não podemos comprar? Aquilo que não se compra, pede um outro tipo de tratamento – de trato. É nesse momento que começa a animação que vem, que é como a grande conversa – tendo em conta que é uma conversa entre sujeitos que vivem, desde sua gênese até seu apocalipse, em uma Torre de Babel maior que a Arca de Noé e talvez do tamanho de Gaia.

Erotex and Dyonisina

This was my text for the MAR presentation last week on Erotex and Dyonisina. The video will be out shortly.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Being Up For Grabs: scheduled launchings

Being Up For Grabs is scheduled to be out in the next few days. Pre-order available. It will be launched in Brasilia on the 13th of September, in Liverpool on the 29th of October and possibly in Granada by late November.