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Friday, 28 October 2011

The genetics of contingency

Discussing Hamilton Grant in the Speculative Philosophy course. Comparisons between the two kinds of speculative materialisms (his and Meillassoux's) were the high points. Hamilton Grant makes use of Schelling's Unbedingt (unconditioned, but maybe also "unthinged" - which points at the pre-aristolelic anti-somatist physics that Schelling wants to usher in, a physics where bodies are not assumed to be the starting point but the question of how to fold up matter into bodies is part of the endeavour). The Unbedingt is somehow like an absolute - it is not conditioned, it is not in a correlation and therefore it would not lead to any kind of metaphysics of the subjectivity (or metaphysics of the correlation). This is what makes Naturphilosophie different from process philosophy, in the former there is an unconditioned while in the latter there are no more than biconditionalities (correlations). (We were playing with words like Zweibedingt or Beidebedingt for correlation.). There is someting beyond all correlations: the history of matter, that is nature. For Schelling - and for Hamilton Grant - natural history or the physics of all could play the role of disclosing the origami of matter. This endeavour shows matter continuously in the making - and materialism has matter to be unconditioned.

How does the natural history of matter compare with the absolute contingency of Meillassoux as strategies to go beyond the correlation pale? The Unbedingt of nature is not mere facticity, it involves a genetic element. Schelling opposes history (and nature) to regularity - when there is regularity there is no history (the orbit of the stars are history only in their clinamens). History makes some foldings cheaper than others - some occurrences easier to take place. There is a genetics added to the contingency in the Hamilton Grant's absolute. I can become Genesis P. Orridge and I can grow older but the second has a lower cost of transport. Schelling introduces history to the business and that affects the notion of contingency (and that of necessity) to a considerable extent. In a sense, the absolute is contingent - in this terms: nature is Unbedingt. However, everything else depends on nature, they are correlated, bedingt, they are contingent on nature. All the foldings of matter depend on matter. Matter itself is ungrounded but bodies are grounded on matter. In other words, there is a genetics of contingency.

This genetics has to do with the generalised recaptulation account of nature that Kielmeyer wanted to extend beyond the organic. It is an account of the eternal return of the same in different shapes. Clinamens are the engine of history (and the factory of bodies). The (small) differences are the purpose of the repetition - Deleuze quotes Blood in Difference and Repetition saying that the same comes back to bring about the different. There is no regularity, there is history - and genetics. Matter is folded and the refolded, the folding is contingent but acts not on a blank slate but rather an already formed origami. This is the genetics of conditioning. Not moved by necessity, but still pointing at an absolute.

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