Total Pageviews

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Occasionalist holism

My crave for a holism without wholism (or connectedness without monism) can be seen as an attempt to elaborate and argue for a fragment of the misknown Heraklitus where he writes something like this:
While there is no whole, everything is connected to everything
In the original in Portuguese:
Tudo se conecta a tudo mas não há tudo
I myself buried a stone with this fragment (and another saying: in order to understand the logos people ought to be like rolling stones) in the castle of Sappho in Eressos, Lesbos as both Heraklitus and Sappho were both devotees of Artemis:
One way of making sense of the fragment is to cut the line Shaffer for instance finds between internal connectedness of all things and priority monism. But I'm growing convinced that there is an Occasionalist way to avoid monism by avoiding internal relations altogether. It is a Humean way, but not an atomist way, not one that makes the world look like a mosaic. Occasionalism holds that no (external) relaton can involve only two relata. There should always be (external) mediators. The path towards pervasive connectedness is ready: there are no atomic relations between any two relata. It is like a mosaic in the sense that there are no pre-existing, internal ties between things. However, two pieces relate only by invoking others to mediate, to be inbetween. Not all moves are allowed. There is no essence, there is no necessary connection between any two items, but not all contingent, external relations are possible – the other items of the world have to collaborate. As Latour would say, a relation always needs to pay the cost of transport between two relata, and that involves bringing together other relata.
The occasionalist move breaks the Schaffer chain between holism and wholism straight away. There is no internal tendencies, there is no contraints on modal freedom but as a matter of fact, things are connected to each other. It is of the nature of relations to depend on mediators. Their nature, yes and in this case they do have an essence, to be expressed by Latour's principle of irreduction: there is a cost to reduce and a cost not to reduce anything to anything else. Occasionalism is itself full of problems in other areas. The principle of irreduction, for example, is a a claim about the absence of unmediated contact between any two things: contact would require always an infinite chain of mediators. It opens the door to infinitism in metaphysics, and this can be another hard to swallow consequence of having holism without wholism. Further, it has problems with individuation of particulars – which is what maybe inspired Graham Harman to try and wed Latour's occasionalism to a primitivism about objects. In any case, occasionalism does the job of avoiding priority monism without biting into unreconstructed atomism.
In fact, I was thinking about the four possible images and wondering whether they can be put in a square akin to the square of oppositions:
1.The world is a jigsaw
2.The world is mosaic (contrary to 1)
3.The world has some jigsaw features as pieces connect together with the aid of others (contradiction to 2)
4.The world has some mosaic features as some pieces are connected together by sheer contingency (contradiction to 1)
Maybe while occasionalist holism holds 3, our modal holism based on physical intentionality spouses 4. (It says that the internal relatedness is between things and types and the instantiation of the latter is contingent and therefore there are mosaic features in the world.) But I'm not as yet sure yet how these four claims relate to each other in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment