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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


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.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Continental bullying

What makes me angriest and saddest about this coup in Brazil is not the outrageous hypocritical acts of those who took power and pretend everything is fine, neither is it that incredibly corporate-oriented and ungenerous policies are being implemented in order to destroy the social inclusion measures that took place in the last 12 years or so. What makes me more upset and depressed (and I suspect I'm not the only one) is rather the bullying. To be bullied involves to be humiliated by someone making clear that your sovereignty is limited, that you cannot do what you want - "we're watching you". The corporate right-wing who is taking power in this coup is certainly composed by cynical bullies, for sure. I feel I've been looked down as if someone was saying: your capacity to act is a concession, it is after all up to us.

The worst thing about being bullied is that you often don't know where the bullying comes from at first glance. It is often later that you realize that the attack came from somewhere else, different from where you thought, different from the faces that where staring at you. The bullies in this coup are continental; this makes the bullying more painful. They are the same agents behind Honduras 2009, Paraguay 2012, the attempted coup in Ecuador in 2010, the multiple attempts of coup in Venezuela and the ones who would do something about Argentina if Macri had lost last year. I don't know whether the bullies are the Koch brothers network (a huge one fine-tuned by the flux of capital) or the American government with the concourse of their Koch brothers - capital doesn't have a motherland, for sure, but motherlands have capital! We did, however, see Obama spend a 26th of March in Buenos Aires this year. We don't see the face of the bullies, but we feel the bullying - we know they are bullying the continent and since 2002 in Venezuela they sort of gave up military coups for subtler, softer but no less interventionist strategies. Bullying makes you feel overlooked, this is what makes it intrusive and suffocating.

This state of being bullied is what explains the general perplexity or depression in the country now. The general message, of course, is: "it doesn't matter what you do, you're not a real agent, the south of this continent carries on being overlooked, to be sure with a lot of help in the ground, but the overall direction on which you go is not up to you". So, people once again conform to the old slogan: either you comply or, you will comply later, or silenced, or unheard, or exiled, or dead. But of course too, some of us are brave.

PS: The text above appeared also copied from here in philpercs. What I would add is that the best thing I read about colonialism in the last month or so was Nick Land's "Kant, capital and the prohibition of incest"(compiled as the first essay in Fanged Noumena).

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Accented concepts: the distorted Anerkennung

Three poles is likely to be better than two - at least they acknowledge that there are more characters in the knowledge plot than just the craving subject and the resilient and yet indifferent object. A third pole alleviates the tension providing a mediation - or perhaps the materials for a correlation. A third pole gives us a chance to know something at least a bit external while not being fully out there - if the object is not reached, at least we're not confined to one pole. Yet, this is what seems to me to be important, three poles are still not enough.

Davidson's efforts are the best presentation of a third pole: the intersubjective one that ensures that knowledge comes in three interconnected (correlated) varieties: knowledge of the external world, knowledge of one's own mental life and knowledge of the mental life of the others. Neither the first nor the second - and this is why strict Cartesianism is rejected - can be achieved without the third. Of course, the third needs the first and the second too because interpreting is an exercise in ascribing sanctioned truths to others. The triangle is very illuminating because none of the three poles is the mediating pole - as it is maybe in Kant. None can be taken in isolation from the other two - just like in a correlation, the links go in both direction. So, for instance, my self-knowledge is a route for me to improve my deployment of the conceptual capacities the others share and the external world I share with them is a route for me to reach my understanding of both the concepts around me and my own states. Also, intersubjectivity - us, and our conceptual norms ("we met the norms and they are us", would add Brandom - is the mediating route to reach the external world. That is, through practices associated to concepts I engage through thinking with the world.

Trouble is that contrary to what Davidson wished and expected, intersubjectivity fragments. He was adamant (and based on good arguments) that there could be no more than one conceptual scheme. Granted. Yet, he himself in "A nice derrangement" concludes (again with good arguments) that there is no such thing called language, at least something like language that we can be introduced to or acquire en bloc. It is a Wittgensteinian point and it is, I believe, his most Wittgensteinian writing. However, if we read further into what he was on about there, we could say that there is no intersubjective sets of conceptual practices that we can be introduced to or acquire, not even gradually. Practices do have commonalities but it is likely that they are understood through mechanisms like formulating something like "passing theories" with all the resources one has in store. Conceptual practices could be common to groups of humans, but only given a plethora of circumstances and favorable forces. In fact, it seems like this commonality had to be reached (has to be sponsored) in every instance. We engage in all sorts of different conceptual practices in different Lebensformen and in different surroundings. Why would these practices be confined in one single pole dedicated to our shared concept-monger condition? Further, it is not clear that some practices are not derivative from alliances some of us craft with units of agency that are not conceptual. Our mingling with the world requires alliances and agreements that are often done without conceptual niceties. I suspect these practices, among the many others that we share in the course of life, shape our use of concepts in a relevant way. If this is so, we have non-public accents in public (conceptual) languages. Also, we then have many poles, many mediations. Intuitions without them are blind, but then again everything can provide mediation. To mediate is to distort, sure, but it is also to provide new vistas. Whitehead would say: don't fear mediation, just make sure it is enabling you to see enough. (Meillassoux would add: of course, and he, Whitehead, would be sure that there is nothing else to be seen but mediators - just correlations, as the furniture of the universe. But then again, Whitehead would just insist that reality doesn't have to be understood as for ever bifurcated from experience.)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The hull

Finding some interesting material in this old paper. Except I tend now to think that parts of the hull (of this Neurath ship) are too expensive to fix and some biases too costly to revise. I think costs matter: maybe every bias is a soft bias - not hard-wired - but costs have to do with importance. And it matters.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Levinas on agency

Been thinking about Levinas´ appeal from the Other in terms of what inculcates in me a decision that is not a product of my freedom but an imposition from justice coming from the Other. When an appeal is made, I endowed with responsibility, as the need to respond. Thought like this, responsibility is not about spontaneity or self-determination because it is responsibility for the Other. It is heterological: it is placed in me by the Other, it is basically the result of a vulnerability and a plea. The Other inculcates a decision in me, a decision I´m not free to discard; not because I am a being-for-freedom or because I live in the open, but because I have been under the appeal of the Other. Once this appeal is made, it is out of my reach to get out of the decision - the decision is imposed on me.

Now, if we take this scheme to be something general about the Other, the decision situation is brought about by an Other and arguably agency derives accordingly from alterity. In other words, agency is not a property of anything but a consequence of an appeal. If we go along this line, agency depends on the Other, in a world where there is only a self, there could be no agency (compare with Hegel´s idea that freedom is impossible in loneliness). Agency then requires some sort of interdependence, but an interdependence very different in kind from the one monadologies posit.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

A coup d'état in the land of a society against the State

Tristes tempos de golpe em uma terra de golpes.

Neste país em que os Guarani algum dia formaram uma sociedade que perseguia com determinação qualquer forma de instituição estatal, agora são todas as instituições estatais que perseguem as sociedades. As sociedades de pessoas, as associações de pessoas com plantas, as associações de animais, as aldeias, os quilombos, as comunidades, as redes de computadores e muitas outras estão as voltas com essa perseguição. Perseguição de controle, perseguição de morte. E aqui mesmo por essas terras por onde andavam os Guaranis - ficar parado atrai os estados de Estado - as instituições estatais se proliferam. Elas se espalham como uma praga descontrolada: os três poderes deles se capilarizando em muitos guardas da esquina que ocupam os vãos onde crescia grama, a mídia cobrindo os passos de quem se move no espaço do estado, os aparelhos ideológicos do estado cada dia mais ideológicos em favor dele e cada dia mais aparelhados e mais parecidos com aparelhos de barbear, os aparelhos repressivos do estado que tem cada vez mais não apenas o monopólio da violência de direito mas também de fato já que armas dos estados são cada dia mais potentes, rápidas e assassinas que todas as armas que podem conseguir os que operam para dissolvê-los. E ao seu lado, o mercado provendo a maior parte da comunicação entre as pessoas. Ao seu lado, em um tango estrutural, em um bolero estruturante, em uma relação de predação mútua que dá as cartas no campinho. Uma mão lava a outra. E assim andam pelos golpes afora. Não foi diferente dessa vez.