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Thursday, 7 August 2014

The muteness of intuitions

I was invited to speak in a Hegel-McDowell event next year. I was wondering about McDowell's account of what the senses deliver. I'm going to present a prehension-based account of the interplay between sensibility and conceptual capacities. This is the abstract I sent.

A. C. Ewing has debunked the connection between what he labels epistemological idealism and the internal nature of all relations. To be sure, his target is the argument that purports to infer antirealism from the ontological thesis that all relations are internal - and not a much weaker version that has been recently considered by Schaffer and others, namely that there must be at least one internal relation between any two or more concrete items. In any case, the thrust of his debunking is to open the landscape for a realism that posits internal relations as central and spanning to the ones between knowledge and its object. Now, the issue of what senses deliver can be considered from the point of view of the nature of relations. A realist and response-dependence account of how senses respond to their objects could be grounded on the intrinsically common conceptual character of both relata. McDowell suggested that sensible intuitions, rather than blind without concepts as Kant claimed, are mute when deprived of a conceptual voice. The ontological nature of this common character of senses and their objects - and the muteness that result from its absence - is the main topic of this work. Placing the deliverances of the sense in the broader context of the nature of relations enable us to see what could be gained by different accounts of how an internal relation holds. In particular, I will explore what would follow from conceiving relations as Whiteheadian prehensions and taking subjective forms as the kernel of a strong version of process realism.

The space between nobody and nothing (few remarks on the politics of predication)

Been thinking a bit - while finishing Being Up for Grabs - about the politics of predication. The gap between someone and something - and between nobody and nothing - is the black hole of politics (and of metaphysics). This black hole is the space where different politics and metaphysics can be cartographer and it is, in fact, the space between politics and metaphysics. This is the space inhabited by animals, plants, parts of people, all sort of auto-poietic devices, prehensions, correlations, intentional stances, proto-subjects etc. The cartography of this space is also a chronology: when does a what generate a who, when do a who bundle into whats - organisms have components that can be described mechanistically, people get together to form resources (or nationalities, or identities, or work force). The endeavor to explore this space starts with a descriptive metaphysics, and descriptions of the world are politically charged (see for instance Galeano's Los Nadies). In fact, most political and metaphysical projects of this time traffic this space: the exacerbation of naturalism, animism and perspectivism, post-humanism, rights of animals, ecology. Political language, and whatever grounds it, draws this line. Politics flows in a riverbed of metaphysics.

This division line is independent both of views concerning the substantiality of what there is and of approaches to the negative - whether there is an absolute nothingness or absence is always relative. In other words, no matter which other options in metaphysics are taken - for instance, no matter whether necessitism, haecceitism or concretism are held - the issue of what counts as an object and what counts as a subject is central. Flat ontology, for instance in the form of object-oriented ontology, holds that anything is a who and a what. For instance, objects are amphibious enough to be sometimes subject. But is this just a way to conceal the black hole?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Back to Abya Yala: an anti-colonial awakening

I´ve been watching documentaries about the Palestinian Nakhba (like the one by Al Jazeera) which is always enlightening for me due to my pro-zionist upbringing. Being back to Abya Yala after some months away, I´ve been thinking about my position in a colónial order: white but not wasp, national of a country but not of a metropolitan one, raised to feel part of a group (Sepharadic, Jewish) with a history of being persecuted, placed on the side of the urbans in the regime of peasant disempowering, raised to be male but with heavy doses of heterogynefilia
and a great deal of autogynefilia, cushioned by the middle class entitlements, surrponded by wanna-be whites that love African stuff provided that it doesn´t bear too much of an afro name. I guess I am in the middle of a scale that I once called the Güero-Indigenous scale, güero for the moderns, indigenous for the locals (both terms turned out to be complicated and I would rather refrain from using them again, but they served my purpose). In other words, in the endeavour of opening territories (in heads, in headscapes, in land, in landscape) for the moderns (that people of variable geometry, says Latour, and of growing geography, my words) I was placed not in the top of the scale and not at its bottom. As a Brazilian, I wasn´t an Indigenous, but I wasn´t a Westerner either. As a Jew, I wasn´t a displaced person any longer but I carried a history of displacements in the (official version of the) family. For a while, when I was growing up I believed all these identity archeolatry to the extent that I felt torn between a Jewish and an Abya Yala (a.k.a. Latin-American, Patria Grande) identity. In both cases I was placed in the middle of a colonial scale: not fully Modern, not fully Indigenous. A complicated position to be: that of a hybrid, maybe. I realised soon that the role of these hybrids are related to some kind of diplomacy. I could speak with heavy accent the language of the Moderns and I could mutter some Indigenous words. The issue, it seems to me, is whether I babbled with pride while disguising my accent or whether I was ashamed of not being able of doing more than mumbling and aware that my Modern-ese was a pígeon language. I guess for most of my years I went for the former and not the latter. That is, I did my diplomacy but starting out from the trenchers of Modern-land.

These two archeolatric identities are also diplomatic identities and their diplomacy was put in service of the Moderns. The Jewish Haskalah (enlightenment) that took place in Europe since late 18th century (and had Napoleon as its outer world greatest figure) is the craddle of Zionism: the Jews then dropped their indigenous nature - that made them like beggars, outsiders, nomads - and sided with the European project of organizing the world in states, nations, governments, economics and economy. What follows - the tragedy of the Nakhba - started there; what else followed - the tragedy of the Shoah - took place because Jewish and European assimilation to the Moderns was not fast enough. Yet, it was enough for the an enormous technical machinery to be put in the service of both catastrophes. Some Jews than learned the lesson: Moderns have to patrol someone else to ensure that the geography is expanding - acquiring more Lebensraum for modernity. This is what they are now: modernized Indigenous. This is what Brazilians want to be - no wonder Israel is admired around by the Modern classes. Brazil cherishes the dream of becoming part of the West. In both cases, these wanna-be moderns end up often to practice modernity à outrance and being more royalist than the natives of modernland. Often ruthless and with no space for hospitable (or even diplomatic) gestures. The strength (specially of convictions) has to be proven throughout.

I was placed in the middle of this diplomatic imbroglio: in the midst of two wanna-be modern archeolatric identities. Born to be in the middle-range. Not quite indigenous, not quite güero. Offended to be called both ways by either pole but pleased to belong with the upper hand holders. Still, I realised hybrids can see through some things. Because they were bred in the middle. I grew glad to be in the middle. But then even glader to be on the way somewhere. Where?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Anarco-archeology, inarcheologies, anarcheology

In Coimbra, during the Epistemologies of the South conference I met Hugo Abalos, an archeologist working in Spain, somewhere in the Pyrenees if I remember correctly. His group excavate the land looking for what the local communities want to find - their issues orient the research. It is a kind of a local archeology, disconnected from national projects and not submitted to a big picture single narrative about human history or how did it all happened since the origins. He calls it anarco-archeology because, I believe, it is not about researching into an arché but rather excavating the floor for what is underneath the exercises of orientation, location and imagination of those who daily step on it. It is indeed something that is much missing in places like Mexico and here in central Brazil where archeological sites are found and then abandoned for they could unveil inconvenient narratives for the official history; something closer to a do-it-yourself, empowering, distributed and plural excavation for the underground. Taking back the underlying narratives, and making them deterritorialize the quickly unified one-world account of the events in the planet. Excavate the floors against the many epistemicides perpetrated in the name of a supposedly common history.

It is interesting to compare his anarco-archeology with my three senses of anarcheology:
1.Anarche-ology: the study of the unruled, the ungoverned, the absence of command and its effects;
2.An-arche-ology: the study of what is groundless and doesn’t have a foundation;
3.An-archeology: the study of versions of the past along with what is taken to be facts.
Abalos' anarco-archeology seems to be closer to the third - although the third always relates to the first two somehow. An-archeology is about not rushing to throw away versions in the name of a unified history of facts. It is about excavating with care - digging holes could be a quick path to epistemicides. Related to that is an-arche-ology which is about not assuming an origin, a common starting point that could serve as a foundation. It is excavating to eventually find the odd, the unfitted, the challenge - something akin to what Ben Woodard calls xenoarcheology, excavating for the alien. Rather, take the surprising and the non-archaic as a what lies underground. An-arche-ology is also excavating for more simulacra, for there is no original, no prototype. It points at a non-ending excavation. There is underground as long as there is a floor.

Anarcheology - and anarco-archeology - is about excavating. I also understand that there could be incavating, something I called (in a piece of paper left in a bottle at Lascaux) inarcheologies. There, it is a matter of creating the past - of bringing up active imagination to implant something on the earth. Just as we do when we grow vegetables by implanting them, affecting the past as it is registered on the floor is to change is operational system. Inarcheology is something we do, in different degrees of intensity, on a regular basis.

Saturday, 19 July 2014


Coming back from a long trip that involved writing a book, preparing a person and changing my soul (and most of my soles), I'm thinking about navigation. This was one of the main characters of the accelerationist plot brought up in the HKW summer school in Berlin early this month. Navigation is what we are enabled to do when we acquire concepts and become able to traffic in reasons. Navigation is also what habits give us for rhythms entrain so that we find paths in time and space. Reasons and habits have these in common: modulation, antennas, broadcasting and receiving signals. The space of reasons is a space of navigation - and as such, concepts make us see what they make us see, the rest i blind. Concepts are like compasses, they provide maps, grammars, they leave paths ready as they offer ready-made thoughts. Everything has to navigate around, it is a way to negotiate their spacing and their timing - their territories and their rhythms - with everything else they find. It is a good image in the sense that it cross through both the human, agent-based, reasoned search and the instinctive, intensity-based, configurational search. The danger, I think, is to model navigational cartographies on the more familiar space of reasons and to overdo unnecessarily the anthropomorphic colors.

Navigation is ampler. It can only be captured speculatively. It is always multi-spatial as even search within the boundaries of the space of reasons simultaneously drag us into intensity spaces (rhythms, passions, mimics). Reasoning when move agents is always affected by all sorts of other location variable - even if the notion of reason is construed in a broadest of ways. There are other interference because no navigation can afford to work its way only with one map - we often bring in a calendar together with a road map to plan a trip. To follow the route is not only one of the possible ways to arrive somewhere but also it is one of the navigational dimensions that is involved in finding one's way towards anywhere.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Politics of predication - a project

Yesterday, walking up and down my jet leg towards the El Capote waterfall in deep Veracruz I thought of my next project. It brings together few elements. First, the idea that there is a crucial separation between collections and collectives; that can be found in Latour's two-chambers model in Politics of Nature or in the eco-theology of Thomas Barry and is ultimately formulated by Arendt's formulation of the main question of politics: why is there someone instead of no one?. Second, the partial who-ification of whats (or someone-ification of things) that is common to both process philosophy and Descola's animism - how these positions compare with standard non-process philosophy and naturalism but also with other alternatives that fully exorcise the separation between something and someone (between the question of politics and the question of ontology). Third, the work on predication - placing subject and object together where someone is the subject and something is the object seems to be the locus of the distinction between whos and whats. There is a politics to predication - that could be an ontology of predication but it is rather what makes politics and ontology possible. And, of course, the issue of what is thinking emerges: is it all about predication?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Scavenging Mount Tourism

At Coimbra last week I presented some ideas about tourism as I've been traveling almost nonstop for the last six months. The slides are too heavy to upload (with my present devices) as it is packed with images of refugees traveling and Ai Weiwei's images. I've started out with Hakim Bey's Overcoming Tourism and moved to an economic analysis of the construction of the tourist object that precedes the actual tourists. They want to see things already prepared for them. Then I finished up with Byung-Chul Han's remarks on transparency applied to tourism. Tourism is a central locus for the friction between the locals and the globals - this is why I'm interested in the tourist guide, in the tourist interfaces that builds up the attraction from behind the scene. Presentation was at the Epistemologies of the South conference organized by Boaventura Sousa Santos and his group.