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Monday, 29 September 2014

Is God an anarcheologist?


Amirouche Moktefi posts an interesting question in a list: is there any representation of Adam navelless?

An interesting element in (some) creationist credos is that God created the past together with the rest of the present world (so that human's faith, presumably, could be tested - or teased as it was). So fossils of older animals and remnants of plants and rocks were allocated in the planet about 5775 years ago so that an impression of ancestry could be provided - and the real believers would stick to the right path in spite of all recalcitrant evidence. The virtue praised here is being stubborn, loyal to a credo come what may. The means, however, are interesting: recreating the vestiges of the past. I wonder whether all tales of origins aren't always doing the same: building an original past that exorcises vestiges as meaningless (but somehow important to be present). It is as if the marks of past repetition are just not real (just marks of a rehearsal, a répétition). This is maybe because origins are imposed as a force that shakes everything else.

Adam's (and Eve's) navel is the best example. Botero makes both naveled. God probably wanted to tease our faith in the creation by making those first humans with navels provided. There is no ancestry, but there are marks of an ancestor. Humans are created with their ancestry, with their past. A creation is a construction and therefore it is real: after 1864 the germs have been around since ever, has a boutade by Latour in Pandora's Hope. In any case, this is the power of creation: a human has a navel. To be sure, some images, like Klimkovics's, opt to hide the navel area - yet making them sufficiently human-looking. It feels like Adam was supposed to be a prototype, a prototype of a person - and a person has ancestry. But then, ancestry has to be invented.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Superposing regimes concerning the human and ignorance

Hume took modal connections to be second creation. A modal superposition on an otherwise modally disenchanted world (where everything is actual). Ampère, apparently, had a reading of Kant according to which noumena was law-like and the anthropocentrism of the phenomena meant no (weak) correlationism: the absolute can be known in itself through the laws of physics. In such laws, there would be no human part, humans would themselves be non-anthropomorphic. These are examples where regimes concerning the humans (dispositions of being, to borrow Descola's terms) that are superposed: the presence of humans produce a second creation. We can envisage different superpositions of regimes, including an anthropomorphic first creation followed by an anthropocentric second one. (We can also discuss whether the second creation envisaged by Hume was anthropocentric or anthropomorphic - in fact, on my reading of Deleuze's D&R every spirit capable to contemplate repetition and be changed by it is a second creator.)

Now, there is room for understanding Hume as postulating that we are doomed to be ignorant about first creation. Also, this understanding can be extended to Kant's transcendental distinction and would have that we can only know from an anthropocentric (allegedly Copernican) point of view but we ignore how things in themselves are. Ignorance, however, is itself anthropocentric: things are such that cannot be known by humans. There is something about everything with respect to humans that can be known - they are all (equally) unknown. The anthropological sleep becomes a proposition about the world if we consider that knowledge (and ignorance) is two-sided. To claim that no human can know things in themselves is to claim that all humans are equal in their incapacity (or rather that everyone is human in their incapacity) and therefore that no thing in itself can be revealed to humans. This is so especially because we could imagine an intelligible intellect capable to have intellectual intuitions of things in themselves - according fro Kant in the KU. So, things are not known to us but they can be known by other intellects. Maybe we can say that positing such an alternative intellect is to appeal to some degree of anthropomorphism: things are such that they can be captured by us and there are other imaginable (and to some extent anthropomorphic) intellects that prove that they are capturable. In any case, Kant seems to have endorsed this two superposing regimes alternative: the anthropocentrism of ignorance superposed by the anthropocentrism of phenomena.

The idea of a global ignorance is prey to that of a correlation with us, and to the idea that we are all the same (the anthropological dogma denounced by Foucault). On the other hand, the idea of a local ignorance is prey to the thesis that all things are capturable even though they could be not captured by anyone. Anthropomorphism, and its associated metaphysics of subjectivity, projects ignorance (and knowledge) everywhere. To think in terms of ignorance is already to measure things in terms of capture, and therefore in terms either anthropocentric or anthropomorphic.






Friday, 12 September 2014

Giving Birth



This is a month of giving birth:
1. On the first day of the month (my birthday) I sent out my book BUG (Being Up for Grabs) to publisher. A birth-giving moment.
2. On the forth, we started the Journal, called Journal of Questions. It is a Jabèsian and Jarryian endeavor that intends to reflect in many languages about the gaps between thought and translation. It will be available soon.
3. On the 10th, day before yesterday, offspring Devrim A. B. was born. Her name means revolution in Turkish and is a roughly common name. She's very attentive and concentrated - especially on her own fingers that she learned to molest in her youth during her womb months. She was gestated together with BUG.
Hope the world enjoys.

My guess about essences

For years I've been toying with the idea that essences are somehow more related to positions and addresses (to places and connections) than to any ultimate core. It is perhaps a monadological take on essences: instances instead of substances. If essences are not substantial, they can be present even in Latour's MET (the mode of existence of metamorphosis, see this post from last March). A crisis, a tempest, or climate change are things that only make sense in connection to what they affect - essences are like Eleatic placeholders, they reveal what is linked. They are like the node in a graph. Essences then can be understood as something like an I.P. number that relates it to other landmarks; to know the essence of X is to know how to find X. To be sure, such a notion of essence doesn't prevent things to be substantial or to have a core or a substratum. It is not committed to a bundle theory of particulars even though it tends to favor such a view (as any monadology does, for monads tend to be mundane, and not transmundane).

Such notion of essence could be spelled out in Fregean terms: something like what Dummett thought about Sinne: to know the Sinn of something is to be able to determine its Bedeutung. However, even being monadological, I guess it would go better with Kripkean accounts of reference-fixing - or rather with Kaplanian ones for essences would be mainly de re, that is indexical. The origin of a table - that it is made of such and such material, to use Kripke's example in N&N - would not be part of its essence as much as that it is THIS (or rather dTHIS) table. What matters is the contingent a priori mechanism that fixes its reference. This is what establishes something's essence. We can say that we know a priori the instances because we know some contingent things a priori: we know what we are talking about. And essences, in Aristotle, are what determine what we are talking about.

It has to do also with the idea of what is contemporary in Whitehead's P&R metaphysics: an actual entity is actual only with respect to other entities in a given address in time. In this case as well, it is about indexicals. Essences are what things are, that is, they are where things are. To be sure, this idea is inspired by the translation of esse in languages like Portuguese as both ser and estar. The latter is about a transient state, typically a position of something that can be moved, that can become different by being placed somewhere else. It is the location dimension of being, that gets a special name. I guess essences, that tell us what is talked about, are also geographical. An essence is no much more than an url.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Anthropocide: the alternative to anthropocentrism and to anthropomorphism

I always thought Meillassoux and Brassier provided an alternative both to correlationism anthropocentrism and to the anthropomorphism that is frequent among metaphysicians of the subjectivity. (To be sure, I'm not sure anthropomorphism is necessarily present in those metaphysicians and often I think that Descola's animism - for example - is only badly described as anthropomorphism, but this is another story.) The alternative is to find a way for the absolute, and not the human capacities, to be the measure of everything. To go, so to speak, beyond the focus on us through what relates to us or through what resembles us.

Yesterday, while discussing the origins of the Modern idea of nature in my course on Descola, we talked about the enlightenment take on a disenchanted of nature. Descola glosses very little on elements for an archeology of nature in his chapter three: perspective in landscape, Aristotle and the (post-Montaigne) intellectual atmosphere before the 17th century scientific revolution play a role. There are, to be sure, other elements but somehow they lead to the disenchantment idea. Then I started thinking about what Brassier does in his Nihil Unbound, chapter 2 where he critiques attempts to reentrant nature (in Adorno and Horkheimer). Brassier is a clear defender of a disenchanted nature and I found myself praising the mosaic he assembles in the book: the Churchlands, Laurelle, Meillassoux and Freud. It is a cornucopia placed in the service of his extinction thesis - that can be understood as disenchanting the human. Anthopocide. That is, not only there are no spirits (subjectivities, agents, monads, entelechies, intentionality) in nature but also there is no cultural dimension that contrasts to it. Laruelle is an important element to invoke here - and this is where his position contrasts with Meillassoux's. Laruelle's notion of determination in the last instance makes thought no more than a point where there is a confluence of objects making themselves present. The Churchlands are relevant too: eliminate belief and desire and rather teach everyone to describe themselves in neurophysiological ways. The appeal to spirits (or believing and desiring agents, subjects, first-person perspectives) are just illusions to be dispelled. Naturalism: nothing but nature. Disenchantment has to be defended and taken one step further: there should be no realm contrasted with the spirit-less domain. Brassier's extinction thesis is a form of naturalism in Descola's sense. But it prevents a straightforward dilemma between anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism. Maybe the options are naturalism or anthropomorphism. Or, rather, naturalism or animism. But then we're quickly swimming in Descola's waters.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Etre est entente: propositions without predications

Whitehead’s criticism of the subject-predicate form of the proposition is also a critique of the event conceived as subjugation. There is always a superject. That is, events are not composed by one active and one passive element but rather by a plethora of active elements where one is picked up as a subject and all the others are present as the rest of the world that resists the subject. The copula is diplomatic and not a mandate: to be is not to command but rather to negotiate. The copula: être est entente. Perhaps to relate itself is to negotiate - there is a diplomacy between any two relata. A diplomacy occasionalism.

I've been thinking of the subject-superject in Portuguese where superject and subject contains the mot "jeito", the word for way. A proposition is a way: o sujeito ajeita, o superjeito desajeita. An event finds a way around a subject and its circumstance. "Grass is green" or "snow is white" express a meeting point between an expanding force - a centrifuge subject - and a resisting force. A proposition is the pressure of what makes reality on a virtuality - superject, the extensive continuum.



Thursday, 28 August 2014

Some further remarks on the origin of anthropocentrism

There is a sense in which anthropocentrism goes hand in hand with patriarchy – or the domain of a man over goods and people - and with corelationism (the Corpernican Revolution or rather the Ptolomaic Counter-revolution). Descola suggests the former link in his chapter on the domestic and the wild (in Par déla Nature et Culture), and at least in two occasions. First, when he talks about the Roman domus and its concentric force separating out everything that is not in it (the central and the peripheral, as in the soul as a core and the body as its provinces, its extensions). Second, towards the end of the chapter, when he compares the Roman ways to the Greek and German ones. The Germanic, for example, wouldn’t quite entertain a dualism between the center and the periphery: the forests were always a space for hunting and hunting and collecting was integrated into agriculture. Anthropocentrism and patriarchy seems to result from the specifics of the Neolithic revolution that encompassed the middle east and the Mediterranean. In the Americas (and in Australia and the polynesia) the neolithic transition was different: no cattle herding - no domesticated animals - and no sharp distinction between the agricultural land and the agrinatural land (the space of the forest). In fact, in the Americas, plants were introduced amid existing ones and were made to co-exist with them.

Anthropocentrism has similarities also with the operation Kant made of keeping the grammatical structure of the proposition while making it revolve around a subject that forces substantiality into the subject. Substantiality becomes less of an independent other (like in a monadology or in a garden with many gardeners, like among the Achuar Descola studies) and becomes issued out of a central subject. Kant's centrality of the subject completes the Modern trajectory towards an exorcism of full-blooded non-human subjects. The transcendental subject is the legitimate centrally governing force of the domus around which everything else is organized. The subject is the transcendental source of necessity: nothing is imposed from outside and all accord is reached from within - from within a subject.

It is of course hard to do more than just point at these rough similarities, but they are thought provoking. It is not enough to suggest a historical link between these practices and ideas, but there is hope for some light on the vagaries of the origin of these otherwise strange sharp distinction between nature and culture.