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Friday, 30 December 2011

Object-oriented ontologies vs materialisms: what is at stake 1 (Objects and concepts)

Been thinking more and more in terms of two poles: object and matter. In a sense, process philosophy is engaged by Harman as part of his war machine against materialism. As he says when discussing what he sees as the drawbacks of Latour's metaphysics (in The Prince of Networks), Latour's alliances, black boxes and tests of force are not enough to exorcise the notion of matter altogether. He pledges that objects can provide a more thorough measure of the exorcism he deems necessary. He sees in the appeal to matter an operation of undermining objects that ought to be resisted as much as those operations to overmine them and explain them away in terms of impressions or appearances. The appeal to matter is not the only one among such undermining operations. In process philosophy itself, it is common to invoke something like the Simondon's principle that individuation always precedes individuals. In other words, that there is a process of constitution of objects that is somehow underneath each individual object. This individuating level undermines objects and paves the way away from a realism about objects. This conflict with the undermining forces within his own ranks is something Harman believes he can administrate. He can say that once there are objects throughout, they are also present in whatever level the individuation of (other) objects takes place. In fact, the debate is reminiscent of Duns Scotus and his attempt to exorcise matter by appealing to haecceitas as an individuating principle: an object-oriented conception of individuation appeals always to what is already individuated.

It is interesting the way object-oriented ontology makes use of process philosophy and of Latour in particular. Latour's focus on alliances, actants and tests of force comes to the effect that there is no ready-made individuated item in the world. This is the lesson of his principle of irreduction: nothing is itself reducible or irreducible to anything else. Objects, in an object-oriented realism, are themselves irreducible to anything. Latour's ontology is one of radical bricolage. But one can use some of this process philosophy bricolage to an object-oriented ontology where objects are never reduced to something else and no object in particular is such that it cannot be reduced to some other object. Harman tries to place objects as the furniture of the world and start out the bricolage from them – all process can only come when objects are already in place. Objects provide an intrinsic measure of individuation and they relate to each other in a way that depend on nothing but the current (actual) alliances (between objects).

The issue of actualism is crucial in the object-oriented ontology vs materialism debate. Materialists like Hamilton Grant see matter as a realm of potentiality. Matter is thought as full of powers, it is vibrant and capable to engender bodies – materialism is a way to avoid somatism (by undermining objects or bodies). Object-oriented ontologies share the actualism of process philosophy – Latour's abhorrence of potentialities, say. It is all about actual objects and their relations – no causal powers, no disposition inherent to objects, no (significant) embedded capacities distinguishing an object from another. Bryant's onticology is a mid-way house in this respect: objects with powers, virtuality without an appeal to matter.

But I'm mostly interested in the similarities between the matter-object debate concerning ontology on the one hand and the immediacy-concept debate concerning thought content on the other. Those who defend a sensorial given that precedes all conceptual operation appeal to what underlies individuation and provides (arguably private) content to the organizing (social, public) concepts. Those who defend that all thought content is conceptual hold that a sensorial given is just too much of a message that can be interpreted in any way we want as it involves no individuation. Wittgenstein famous ingenious child who crafted a term for her toothache before learning how to associate the term “toothache” with public signs of pain (Investigations, I, 257) is an example. The pain is there but there is no mental content because the child doesn't know how to individuate what her crafted word is denoting (does a headache qualify; or an equally disturbing metallic sound or maybe a very cold wind?). No message can be delivered without concepts because only concepts individuate. Those who defend a given insist that animals, machines or our instincts (and maybe all dispositional items capable of Molnar's physical intentionality) can discriminate without possessing concepts (ticks discriminating mammals, sugar discriminating water, our nerves discriminating something inconvenient in our teeth). They address the issue of how discriminating starts, how and at which point the sensorial given becomes capable of delivering a contentful message.

The debate goes on and on; but it does go on and on in ways that resemble the one between materialism and object-oriented ontology. On the one side those who believe that there are concepts all the way (or objects all the way) and on the other those who take concept formation from non-conceptual material (or object-formation from a non-object material) a crucial issue. On the one side those who take the level of concepts (or objects) to hold a high degree of sovereignty (and are in pains to explain how the world affect them, like Davidson attempts to do with his multiple triangulations). On the other side those who place concepts (or objects) within a greater picture and take their powers to come from somewhere else – and not only from their internal arrangements. Those who insist that there are no message without concepts take the sensorial given to be like noumena in the sense of a blind absolute. Just like object-oriented ontology can take any appeal to matter as an appeal to an unaccessible absolute. Those who appeal to the sensorial given tend to see there the conditions of possibility to all concepts – just like Schelling saw in Nature the conditions of possibility for all bodies. If the analogy holds, attachment to objects in ontology are somehow like the attachment to concepts concerning thought content. The issue is whether there is more to the world than ready-made objects, more to content than ready-made concepts.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Knowing singularities by heart

Went to see a beautiful exhibition by Carlos Lin where he presents photos of the skies pinned with acupuncture needles. That somehow inspired my friend Luciana and me to discuss a bit about how to know singularities. Lucien Freud defends memorising or knowing by heart against learning - he says he was always interested in knowing few things but by heart. Knowing by heart is the only way to know singularities, there is nothing there (as far as the singular in them is concerned) that can be known otherwise. No general system of classification, no description, nothing but what is akin to knowing a name. Like a fold in a body known by heart and painted to explore by Lucien Freud or a fold of a cloud, the pinned singularity in the needles of Lin. That very point in the cloud's fold can be named, can be pinned, can be given a geographical location but to know it cannot mean anything other than knowing it by heart.

I remember in my book Excesses and Exceptions I consider the anomaly of singularity for thought. Things can be known by description but that doesn't capture the anomaly of something singular. Singularities, I say, can cause things and that causation could be expressed in terms of a law that relates descriptions of the singularity but it is not the singularity qua singularity that is in the law that supports the causal link. In that chapter, I take Davidson's anomalous monism and the thesis that the mental is anomalous and distort it so that I make singularity itself anomalous. This cloud causes rain but only because it can be described as a rain-causing cloud (say, a cumulonimbus). Knowing all its causal powers (and categorical properties) is not enough to know the cloud. As a singularity it cannot be known but by heart.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Object Oriented, study no 1 in movement

My train set piece from the Object Oriented exhibition last June in Kentish Town in film:

Soundscape by Jones, Carriconde, Weston et al.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Vibrant matter and non-philosophy

Jane Bennett, in her Vibrant Matter, focuses on a combination of matter and process - of what is left loose yet harbouring powers and what is in the process of producing whatever exists. Matter is akin to the absolute, to the Schellingian unbedingt that Hamilton Grant brings back to the fore. Hers is a story about thing power, a potentiality of matter that contrasts with the actuality of objects. She has room for the onto-genetic tectonic underlying objects and finds it in whatever resists, in whatever escapes, in the clinamens present in every orbit. She claims from the outset that she will "shift from the language of epistemology to that of ontology, from a focus on an elusive recalcitrant hovering between immanence and transcendence (the absolute) to an active, earthy, not-quite-human capaciousness (vibrant matter)" (p. 3)

This is an interesting shift. No more meeting the borders from within - talking about what resist the drive to correlate, so to speak - but rather to speculate on matter as something that acts underneath our correlating practice. The focus on matter is one towards an underlying agent that requires alliances, attention, negotiation and all sorts of painful interaction (to use my friend's Cabrera beautiful phrase) from whoever concocts thought that attempts to encompass the objects that it composes. Matter acts on thought and its resistance to thought is no more than a proof of its powers. Bennett wants to shift from the discourse on passivity and resistance to that of activity. Speculation here makes use of a transcendental argument in favour of matter: there ought to be something acting upon my thought as there is something that resists its productions (the contents of my thought). The manoeuvre is somehow similar to something I proposed in my "Excesses and Exceptions": the multiplicity present whenever we think about something singular is best explained by the escaping character of what makes something singular singular. It indicates a singularity beyond thought that somehow imposes some features on thought - namely, its capacity to rely not only on (already) thought contents but also on acts of thought (and interpretation). This capacity to rely on contents and acts is, according to what I claim in the book, the very basis for the multiplicity of thought concerning singularities. I could have said that these escaping singularities impose some features on thought. They are, as it were, the agents making us think the way we think.

Bennett's strategy is one that by stressing the thing power makes us appreciate starting points like that of Laruelle's non-philosophy. Philosophy, even of the most courageous sort, is based on a pride, the pride of knowledge - of ontological knowledge if we want to speak with Lévinas. It is based on a decision to make thought focus on something. Laruelle claims that philosophy is grounded on a decision to focus on something and this decision contrasts with the appeal of things to thought. While philosophy makes thought active on its contents, non-philosophy makes thought somehow subject to its objects. The many features of thought are therefore determined (to use again the image of determination that Hamilton Grant finds in Schelling) by things - just like escaping singularities impose acts of thought. Matter would then have something like a non-philosophical upper hand on thought. It is matter that vibrates and thought makes no more than attempt to find a way to resonate.

Quick note for the blog's first anniversary: I started out around a year ago on thrash, on the rubbish bins and on how nothingness works like a metaphysical litter. I claimed that nothingness could be nothing but a recycling bin. Jane Bennett quotes Robert Sullivan: "The ... garbage hills are alive... there are billions of microscopic organisms thriving underground in dark, oxygen-free communities...". Just as much in the nothingness hills.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Brassier's nihilism, concepts and objects

Brassier replies to me by email commenting on my recent post (Speculative Anti-vitalism below, on Nihil Unbound (NU) and its criticism of vitalism through the notion of extinction. Brassier takes the opportunity to present an elaboration of his current disagreements with the NU project:

NU equivocates in a dangerous and misleading fashion between the logical and the ontological (or the conceptual and the metaphysical), especially in its final chapters. I ought to have emphasized the disjunction between these two registers, as well as their intrication, much more carefully.  I tried to clarify this in responding to someone who asked me about this issue and I hope you don’t mind me reproducing some of my answers to him here (it was part of an interview for a Slovenian student journal).

The significance of the concept of extinction goes beyond mere acceptance of a scientific discovery (whether biological or cosmological) and is supposed to play a transformative epistemological role. It is explicitly deployed as a philosophical, rather than a scientific concept. And it's deployed as an attempt to address the following question: "How are we to reckon with the claim that the physical conditions upon which life and thought depend will eventually (if our best current science is to be believed) cease to exist?". So the concept of extinction as I use it  does not just refer to the termination of biological species, or even to the annihilation of the physical universe, but to the lapsing of a prevalent philosophical understanding of life as generative of thought. It's an attempt to radicalize and generalize the specifically scientific concept of extinction, and to endow it with a more universal scope in order to address the following quandary: "How are we to make sense of the end of sense as philosophers have hitherto understood it?" This is why it marks a fundamental epistemological transformation: it entails a transformation in the conditions of cognitive understanding, insofar as these are alleged to be rooted in some originary or primordial dimension of the human phenomenon, whether it be the transcendence of intentionality (Husserl), being-in-the-world (Heidegger), or the immanence of auto-affecting consciousness (Henry). That's why I describe it as a trauma for phenomenology: it subverts the transcendental pretensions of the kind of phenomenology for which human experience constitutes the fundamental phenomenon. The positive implication of understanding extinction, over and above this subversive function, involves recognizing the autonomy of the conceptual order and carrying out a determinate negation of concepts such as 'meaning' and 'life' in order to transform the possibilities of existence.  The goal is to propose a rationalistic, as opposed to aesthetic (i.e. Nietzschean), resolution of the problem of nihilism. Such rationalism involves a kind of idealism of course, but materialism and idealism are dialectically articulated, and the materialism I'm interested in is one that recognizes the irreducibility of the conceptual as well as the difference between conceptual ideality and material reality---a difference that should not be construed as a metaphysical absolute, but as a regulative ideal wherein the convergence of phenomenal experience and noumenal reality functions as the ideal limit of cognitive enquiry.  I realize that a proper justification for both the negative-critical and positive-constructive aspects of extinction is lacking in NU, which is why I intend to develop them properly by unpacking the full ramifications of Wilfrid Sellars' attack on "the myth of the given". Sellars' critique extends beyond a critique of sense-datum empiricism and applies to any philosophy for which conscious experience is "self-authenticating", including phenomenology and Bergsonian vitalism. 

I don't accept Zizek’s charge that my attempted cosmological reinscription of the death-drive amounts to naively ideological regression. It would indeed be a regression if it was a 'cosmologization' in the straightforwardly metaphysical sense rightly criticized by Laplanche. But the reinscription I have in mind it is carried out at the conceptual meta-level of transposition or interference between manifest and scientific images, not at the first-order ontological level, which would indeed be unacceptably metaphysical. But this is not very clearly stated in the book, so I have invited misunderstanding.

I agree with Zizek that what is significant about the compulsion to repeat is its introduction of a discontinuity between the human and animal realms; I concur with his rejection of a 'layer cake' metaphysics, according to which reality comprises a stratified hierarchy of layers (physical, chemical, biological, psychological, social, etc.), which is why I find a metaphysics of 'emergence' so problematic. Lastly, I also think that the philosophical value of Freud's speculations about the 'death-drive' is not to be sought in their allegedly biological basis. The reinscription of the death-drive attempted in NU is not the result of identifying two empirical instances: a (supposedly) biological 'death-drive' with a (supposedly) cosmological 'dark energy'. It is generated by establishing an analogon between two negations: the negation of the categorial difference between life and death in Freud's subordination of the organic to the inorganic, and the negation of the categorial difference between matter and void in whatever is responsible for the long-term disintegration of the universe's physical structure. Very simply, the point is that attentiveness to the sciences obliges us to reorganize our categories and to recognize the problematic 'reality' of something for which we do not yet have a name: that 'something' manifests itself as the cancellation of the difference between life and death in post-Darwinian biology; just as it manifests itself as the cancellation of the difference between particles and void in contemporary cosmology.   

Ultimately, there is a tension between loyalty and interrogative conscience in NU: the problem is structural: I write about philosophical constructions whose pertinence and power enables my own thinking, so it's incumbent upon me to delineate them as accurately as possible, while at the same time I try to identify those points where a fundamental (rather than merely superficial) inconsistency (or contradiction) vitiates the coherence of the construction, but also points towards a possible transformation that reconfigures the structure in question, orienting it in an unexpected direction.
It struck me afterwards that my manner of philosophizing is essentially dialectical for the same reason as it is basically parasitic or derivative, and while I am very far from being a Derridean or Adornian, this is why I remain broadly sympathetic to the procedures of deconstruction and negative dialectics (I probably feel closer to the latter insofar as I think the attempt to articulate dialectics and non-dialectics has to preclude any recourse to the brute, unintelligible transcendence of alterity or "the event", yet I also detect something similar in the Adornian pathos of "reconciliation", which strikes me as an indefensible theological relapse). The point is not just to erect a shiny new system ex nihilo but to identify an uncircumventable problematic whose binding features (i.e. grip) necessitate the construction of new concepts: only an invention that is somehow necessary has the power to compel, which is why I remain unimpressed by calls to rehabilitate metaphysical system building in the name of edifying virtues such as “affirmation” and/or “creation”.

Anyway, I now very much want to re-assert the necessarily dialectical structure of philosophizing, provided one understands dialectics as that which enjoins the maximization of consistency even as it disqualifies conceptual self-enclosure: the goal is systematicity without a system; this is what distinguishes the logical dynamism of dialectics from any facile, anti-totalizing relativism that fetishises, and thereby unwittingly absolutizes, the partial and the incomplete. It's very important to me to find a way to salvage the rational kernel of anti-dialectical scepticism (whether deconstructionist or other) from its obscurantist envelopment, but also to shatter the theological afflatus that inflates dialectics into absolute idealism. What is essential to negativity is the link to time: time is the ruin of logic, yet logic can, indeed must, delineate its own ruin. This is why, at least for me, a thoroughly disillusioned rationalism is essentially pessimistic, and ultimately nihilistic.

Anyway, all this is just a longwinded way of explaining why I now have a better understanding of what it is I have been doing, even if I failed to understand it while I was doing it, and why my modus operandi is essentially un-original: the point is not to glorify commentary (in the manner of hermeneuticists), but to emphasize the binding power of historically specific problem-fields and the necessarily dialectical structure of any philosophizing compelled in response to such problematics.     

I take extinction plays a crucial role in his argument for an anti-vitalist nihilism. Instead of stressing ancestrality as something that ought to exist beyond thought, he points at extinction as something that is within thought and points outwards towards something that exists (countering, for example, the idea that something cannot exist independently of our conception, the conclusion of what David Stove called the Gem argument – see Brassier's Concepts and Objects (C&O) in The Speculative Turn). Hence, it is something that follows directly from reason once it recognizes the boundaries through extinction: there ought to be something that exists when concept mongers get extinguished (once it is clear that they will). Stressing extinction is an attempt to ground a world independent of conception from a feature of conception itself – that it conceives and discovers its own extinction. Brassier's eliminative nihilism seems then closer to something akin to a transcendental rather than to a speculative anti-vitalism. At least this is how I understand this passage from what he says above:

[…] the reinscription I have in mind it is carried out at the conceptual meta-level of transposition or interference between manifest and scientific images, not at the first-order ontological level, which would indeed be unacceptably metaphysical.

Extinction is not, therefore, issued from our image of the world itself but rather as a kind of a fact of reason that becomes clear as the scientific image is unveiled and we face it as encompassing our own predicament. Extinction is not a scientific item but rather an application of the scientific image to the fate of reason, therefore it is something transcendental but maybe in an odd way: it would be like something that is necessary and yet a posteriori. Enlightenment has presented it to reason and yet it draws an outer boundary to it. What matters for the anti-vitalist Brassier, as I take him, is not that things turn into other things but rather that they extinguish and, more to the point, that concept mongers with their supposed all-pervasive scope are to be extinguished. This is a message from enlightenment, and a necessary one. Not a scientific conclusion but still drawn from the scientific image.

It is interesting to compare this strategy to ground something beyond the correlationist circle with what I take to be the (speculative) vitalist one. The latter will proceed (speculatively) as follows: conceptualization as we experience it is a case of something that happens more broadly, it has features in common with, say, any prehension – or any alliance or any test of force. (Notice that my vitalist here is crucially process-based, but I guess it doesn't matter much in this context as something similar could maybe be said about a Nietzschean or a Bergsonian version.) The idea – again a speculative one – is to resist the claim that reason or conceptualisation is overwhelmingly sui generis and anomalous. The life of a concept (and of concept mongers) belong in an environment and disclose elements of it. While eliminativism nihilism (or transcendental anti-vitalism) brings extinction from the scientific image towards concept mongers, (speculative) vitalism takes features of the concept-monger activity towards a broader context. In both cases, an interchange with what ought to be outside establishes an outer realm for the sphere of correlation. The difference is that vitalism is not dependent on a crucial distinction between concept mongers and the rest of the world while anti-vitalism is not dependent on a (speculative) operation of generalizing some features of conceptualization.

I take the opportunity to briefly reflect on the way Brassier makes use of his emphasis in the distinction between concepts and objects in C&O. Firstly, talking about Latour he says:

Irreductionism is a species of correlationism: the philosopheme according to
which the human and the non-human, society and nature, mind and world, can only
be understood as reciprocally correlated, mutually interdependent poles of a fundamental relation.

” C&O 24

It seems to me that here there lies a confusion of epistemology and ontology. We are part of a broader network of alliances in our conceptual abilities but the reverse is not the case. The link between between us and nature is at most one of epistemological dependence, it is by means of our practices that we find out about the alliances and forces that compose nature. It is an application of the speculative method. Whereas the generalization of process is part of a view on how things are. There is no fundamental relation but a general process with different instantiations. Latour's efforts is one of trying to understand concepts in its interrelation with objects and not as a separate, sui generis structure capable of representational powers. Brassier proceeds:

Thus Latour’s reduction of things to concepts (objects to ‘actants’)
is of a piece with his reduction of concepts to things (‘truth’ to force).

C&O 27

Latour's actant is not a concept. A concept could be an actant but it is more likely to be part of a network, for Latour. It is not about reducing concepts to things, it is again about presenting a metaphysics that doesn't appeal to representation as the sole interaction between concepts and anything else. Actants are, for Latour, to use a worn-out phrase, part of the furniture of the universe. Objects – at least in the sense of items with substracta beyond their properties and relations – are not. It is a metaphysical claim grounded, I guess, by a speculative operation. It is not a reduction of things to concepts but an attempt to place concepts within a framework of what there is.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Five years philosophical serialism (and its very premature death)

Yes, 5 years ago, Luciana, Rudhra and me started the movement and gave it up in few months. A report was published in Portuguese and quoted in my book Excessos e Exceções. Manuel and me presented the saga to a large audience in the Spanish spring of 2008 with a performance by Fabi (not allowed to burn books in the lecture theatre).

Philosophical serialism is the attempt to apply some of Schoenberg's principles of composition to philosophical thought (and philosophical prose). The idea is that our thought is already prefigured by chains of tonality that make us think of, say, death followed by finitude, of virtuality followed by contingencies, of matter followed by passivity etc. Serialism was aimed at disrupting such practices by making it mandatory to think following the path of a series. The series was formed either by philosophers (a thought by Butler followed by a thought by David Lewis, say) or by ideas (singularity followed by the arbitrary etc, say). At the time we decided that it doesn't work because thinking seems to be composed by relations that are inherently internal, as opposed to musical composition where there is arguably no intrinsic link between one note and another. This conclusion, of course, is disputable. I fear the movement was aborted prematurely.

The prose produced by philosophical serialism efforts ends up reminiscent of those of Raymond Roussel, George Perec and Christian Bök. Bök, talking about his beautiful Eunoia, says: "The text makes a Sysiphean spectacle of its labour, willfully crippling its language in order to show that, even under such improbable conditions of duress, language can still express an uncanny, if not sublime, thought." I guess this can also inspire further exercises in philosophical serialism.


“O que a aids não destruiu, Schoenberg destruirá.”

Um manifesto

O pensamento filosófico é prisioneiro de suas próprias armadilhas. Os argumentos subjacentes aos termos mesmo que usamos, às pressuposições que fazemos e aos hábitos que se instalaram em nós––o já não dito no que acabamos de dizer e que traça a linha do que viremos a dizer––terminam por pensar por nós já que não escapamos das projeções dos pontos iniciais do pensamento. É por isto que o pensamento se apresenta sempre com imagens: como partimos de um ponto a outro como se já tivéssemos um manual de instruções para pensar. Este manual de instruções, é claro, termina pensando por nós. Mesmo incompleto e ambíguo, ele constitui as sobras de uma mathesis universalis em que os pensamentos são, nos melhores casos, melodias circunscritas por tonalidades.
Quando procuramos nos soltar destes grilhões, eles nos prendem por serem subjacentes, por estarem implícitos, por ficarem na espreita por onde pensamos. Apenas uma disciplina de liberação livrará o pensamento de seus hábitos, argumentos viciados e pressuposições: apenas uma série filosófica nos soltará das cadeias das tonalidades filosóficas. Fazemos para nossas cabeças o que Schoenberg fez há 100 anos para nossos ouvidos: apresentamos uma disciplina de liberação, uma maneira de trapacear as inclinações de nossos pensamentos––ludibriar nossos carcereiros que nos espremem contra as palavras e seus dutos prontos. Trata-se de travar a batalha da inteligência serial contra o feitiço aprisionante da linguagem, que são palavras que sempre aparecem rodeadas de expectativas de outras palavras. Chega de seguir as amarras do pensamento em labirintos já construídos: pensemos a céu aberto e, para isto, o serialismo filosófico, como nos inspira Schoenberg, quer construir nossos próprios labirintos. Pensar não é andar pela senda tranqüila, é aventurar-se pelos descampados. Depois de séculos de pensamentos regrados por escalas já arquitetadas, agora nos cabe começar a compor pondo as notas, e não suas sombras, uma atrás da outra. As notas não estão a serviço de uma tonalidade––as idéias não estão a serviço de uma concepção já pronta na linguagem ou insinuada pelas expectativas das palavras. O serialismo é a disciplina da liberação, a disciplina do pensamento vencendo seus condicionamentos.
Basta de pensar em escalas bárbara, celarent, darii... A filosofia ficou por tempo demais subjugada pela idéia de uma ordem dos pensamentos, uma ordem natural, uma ordem imposta por si mesma, uma ordem auto-evidente. Não precisamos pensar a serviço de qualquer ordem de pensamentos, evidente, implacável ou inevitável––podemos sair da tonalidade. O serialismo filosófico convida a sair do tom. Nós começamos por nos impor nossa própria ordem––nossa série––de antemão e, de antemão nos comprometemos a segui-la em detrimento de qualquer inclinação em contrário. Os pensamentos não são nodos de uma rede de conexão em que tudo que é externo é interno: não há mônadas nas nossas cabeças––há apenas um arsenal de coisas diferentes umas das outras; nos as arranjamos como acontecer de as arranjar––de acordo com o que conseguimos quando tentamos soltar as idéias umas das outras. O serialismo pretende nos libertar dos arranjos prontos, nos libertar mesmo da idéia de que nós fazemos nossos pensamentos––nós apenas estamos no meio das idéias e a série, ou a tonalidade, é o que guia nossos neurônios. Não temos uma imagem precisa do que seja pensar em campo aberto, quando não mais precisarmos de séries. Apenas clamamos por um passo em favor da desordenação natural dos pensamentos: que eles sejam soltos de suas tonalidades. Para tira-los das escalas é que os engessamos em séries: é o gesso que reinventa os movimentos nos corpos atrofiados.
Façam suas séries. Sigam-nas. Sejamos tiramos de nós mesmos, assim, seremos livres.

Estudo 1: Filosofia da Diferença.

SÉRIE: Lévinas, Derrida, Agamben, Heidegger, Deleuze, Vattimo.

A mim não me interessa tanto a ética, mas a santidade do santo. Tudo é diferente. O ser que vem é o ser qualquer. Mas o ser à beira do seu nada. Esse duplo que captamos apenas. Meu pensamento enfraquece o ser. Na casa do outro. Tem uma moto serra dentro da minha cabeça. Um conceito que foge à antinomia do universal e do particular está sempre familiar. O não poder permanecer que não pode deixar o seu lugar. Como deixar o seu lugar sem ser um corpo sem órgãos? Um corpo sem órgãos não bate. O humano só aparece numa relação que não é poder. A nós nos interessa o que sobra do poder. O próprio do nosso tempo: todos estão na posição de resto. Porém, o ser é sempre meu. E eu fico parado para não assustar os devires. E o meu destino não é um fato, mas interpretação. O desconhecido que vem é meu amigo. E com ele eu aprendi a dizer a palavra “acolhimento”. Essa é por assim dizer a experiência do limite mesmo o ser – dentro – um fora. Estamos no aberto, carregamos esta clareira. Até o nosso passado é um lugar para onde podemos fugir. O salto para o sem fundo. Sem fundo, um par de olhos, um rosto. Habitamos um mundo de vestígios nunca plenos, heranças sem testamento. Ser sem presença. O que fica não fica, somos para onde fugimos. É preciso que nosso pensamento não tenha mais força do que o que pensamos. O rosto do outro não está aí para ser pensado. Identificar a morte com o nada é o que gostaria de fazer o assassino. Quem pode matar um vulto. O nosso horizonte nunca é feito só do nada. Torne-se o horizonte que você nunca consegue encontrar. E pense passando por baixo do arco-íris. Eis me aqui. Ética também para além da ética. Mas a vida que começa na terra depois do último dia é simplesmente a vida humana. Eis me aqui. Eis me saindo daqui. Bem devagar.

Luciana Ferreira
Rudhra Gallina
Hilan Bensusan

Estudo 2: Mais diferenças – a filosofia do impossível


1. Pseudônimo.
2. A lei, no singular absoluto, contradiz a lei no plural, mas cada vez é a lei na lei e cada vez fora da lei na lei.
3. Um sistema pronto de diferenças.
4. Um apelo que manda sem comandar.

Eu penso em esquizofrenia. A lei, mesmo dentro das minhas entranhas, está fora de mim. Diferenças de um sistema pronto. Uma voz que escuta ao longe. Deus P. Leis são proposições que nunca conhecemos porque nunca podemos enfiar a mão dentro delas ou sentir o seu cheiro. Diabolismo das letras. Tudo será assim como é, irreparavelmente, mas propriamente esta será a sua novidade. Novidade é o nome do mesmo no outro. Porque a exclusão e a inclusão são inseparáveis no mesmo momento; cada vez que se queira dizer ¨neste mesmo momento”, existe antinomia. É um sistema pronto de identidades. Só escuto uma voz ao longe, eu sou todos aqueles que crio –– o insensato que me conduz. E as diferenças, apenas porque elas estão sempre fazendo diferenças, nunca formam um sistema. O assassinato do outro homem é a impossibilidade de dizer “eu sou” enquanto “eu sou” é um “eis-me aqui”, como o “eis-me aqui” do hóspede que surge e traumatiza. O seu ser na linguagem. Não há leis quando convidamos uma pessoa a entrar com sua mala na nossa casa. Vamos abrir esta mala juntos. A partir da sua voz.

Luciana Ferreira
Rudhra Gallina
Hilan Bensusan

Estudo 3: Pensar o mundo


Ninguém––nem nada––arbitra tudo. Eu conheço o que eu sou capaz de decidir e o que aceito que decidam para mim. Uma decisão é sempre uma decisão e só ela. Jogo uma rede que pavimenta o caminho para qualquer coisa. Tenho em minha cabeça as coisas pavimentadas. Perambulo entre elas, dias de sombra, dias de sol. Não escolho, não se trata de uma escolha. Apenas noto. Cada passo é aleatório e único. E, em cada passo, é que penso. Vagueio pelo que penso como por um território em erupção. Um território que se movimenta. Encontro nos movimentos as margens de como as coisas são. Assim é que as vejo. Vejo como cada uma delas é. E nelas me espelho de um jeito que não deixa lugar para qualquer complacência. Apenas é assim que são as coisas. Não julgo e não arrependo. Tento saber. Uma coisa única é imperturbável. Tenho que colocar meus olhos e trazer algo de volta. Não há meras presenças a serem encontradas. Meus pés, condenados e redimidos, desviam do que está perdido. Acontece de ser assim. Não sou eu mesmo um objeto perdido? Cada objeto, um objeto. Minha cabeça é uma maquina de mediações. Perco as verdades, depois as reencontro. E sigo.

Hilan Bensusan

Da impossibilidade do serialismo filosófico ou:
relações empiricamente externas requerem relações transcendentalmente internas.

O serialismo é uma maneira de forçar pensamentos a se meterem em relações externas com outros pensamentos. Pensamentos nunca podem se relacionar de uma maneira inteiramente externa: a natureza do pensamento é ter dutos para fora, a natureza do pensamento é ter conexões––identificamos pensamentos pela diferença que eles fazem e trazem, individuamos pensamentos com base em outros pensamentos. A surpresa empírica de um pensamento requer a previsibilidade transcendental de um pano de fundo de pensamentos que o torna inteligível. A alteridade empírica de um pensamento requer um pano de fundo de Mesmos. As notas talvez sejam tais que elas podem se colocar em relações externas: um dó pode não prefigurar um lá nem nota alguma por si mesma, ainda que a tonalidade crie dutos. Mas podemos almejar uma tal liberação dos pensamentos?
Bem, pode ser que nem precisemos. O serialismo quer apenas colocar o pensamento em outra ordem––a ordem transcendental requerida para uma desordem empírica. Encontrar, no pensamento, outros dutos: os dutos que levam a pensamentos menos pre-figurados sem ainda entender cada pensamento como uma singularidade sem elemento de fundo comum com outros pensamentos. Encontrar outros dutos, sem fazer uso de uma imagem já pronta––como um agrimensor de Deleuze. Experimentar pensar. Experimentar compor. Experimentar pensar em outra lógica, em uma lógica atonal.
Mas, como seria uma série filosófica? Imaginemos uma série assim: um pensamento com um espírito levinasiano, seguido de um com ares de Derrida, um com ares de Agamben, um heideggeriano, um deleuziano e um com o jeito de Vattimo (cf. Estudo 1). Ou qualquer outro assim. Compostos em série, não estaria cada pensamento repercutindo o anterior? Não seria a implementação de uma série filosófica assolada por relações internas––por um pensamento antevendo e ressoando o outro? Bem, poderíamos intercalar textos independentemente articulados... Nada, isto produziria prosa serialista mas não ainda um caminho serialista de pensamento. Queremos libertar o pensamento de suas armadilhas, não a prosa das armadilhas do pensamento. Quem sabe, contudo, o leitor da prosa serialista fizesse um caminho de pensamento libertado (ou pelo menos serialista) se ele de fato lesse o texto linha a linha. Isto talvez o ensine a pensar de uma maneira serialista. Ou pelo menos de maneira libertada das armadilhas do pensamento... Pode ser, no entanto, que o leitor aprenda a manter na cabeça apenas mais de uma linha de pensamento ao mesmo tempo, mais de uma melodia na cabeça, não em uma polifonia mas em justaposição. Desconfiamos disso porque na produçaõ da prosa não houve pensamento––a prosa foi composta de maneira mecânica.
E, se voltamos a estratégia anterior, como saberemos que o caminho do pensamento não foi burlar a série para compor uma melodia? Filiar um pensamento, digamos, a Lévinas não parece nos dar um critério de identidade, externo, extrínseco como parece que podemos ter da nota dó. Mesma desconfiança teríamos se adotássemos uma estratégia rousselliana de nos tiranizar para nos libertar: atentar aos significantes e jamais aos seus significados. Roussel conectaria filha com pilha e não importa os significados. Porém não estariam os significados armando armadilhas para o poeta nonsense? Não estariam eles nos empurrando pelos dutos sem que notemos? Serialismo filosófico, gostaria de ver––com os olhos, com a cabeça, com minha própria cabeça. Sem ver, desconfio. Pensamentos não são notas: cada um deles já vem com escalas, com muitas escalas diferentes e dissonantes, mas com escalas. São as escalas transcendentais do pensamento que possibilitam que o pensamento pense, mesmo em em série.

* The score in the image is not Schoenberg's but the world map is a series... of sorts.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Speculative anti-vitalism

Been discussing Nihil Unbound in my lectures recently. The book gets interesting, in my opinion, from chapter 5 on when Brassier brings in Laruelle and notions such as determination in the last instance. Laruelle has this interesting reversal of a transcendental deduction whereby the object imposes itself to the subject and ends up determining itself in the last instance. It is a true reversal of the Ptolomaic counter-revolution. Brassier puts this together with the move towards extinction that is carried by each craving for knowledge. It is a drive towards a low degree of being or towards being colonized by the object, being occupied by the thoughts imposed by the objects that called us (he mentions Lévinas Autre in this connection to refer to the way the objects call upon our attention) and that extinguish us by promoting in us a turning into something else. Brassier brings in Heidegger's being-for-death then to join together the drive towards objects and the drive for death - the thirst for knowledge is an extinct against other instincts.

It is interesting that becoming is a central part of the argument. Not because it takes us somewhere commendable or because it is itself good. Brassier rejects the connection between life as a flux of becomings and something desirable in itself as a connection that grounds no more than a vitalism he finds unattractive. (Analogously, he rejects the good beyond being that Lévinas associates with radical ileté while accepting that the the Other calls upon us,) His theory of becoming has a Schopenhauer tonality: they bring in extinction while we cannot in the long run escape from them as they are connected with the underpinnings of our curiosity. Becomings are not the ultimate flag for vitalism but rather they pave the way for extinction.

Laruelle's starting point is indeed very different from that of Meillassoux. He doesn't seem to want to struggle arms in arms with correlationism but rather to start out from a different story altogether (non-philosophie). His other scenario is that of objects promoting thinking rather than that of the ancestrality (or of the absolute beyond correlation). Brassier tries to take this determination in the last instance of objects over thought not as a sign of the final triumph of a better form of life but rather he takes disenchantment of nature seriously and sees no way to halts the path of enlightenment. Objects are not going to save us because they impose themselves to us, they are no saviours - there is no redemptive post-humanism here. Because objects in their anonymity and their degree zero of being seduce us, we are already all dead and there should be no political project to rescue us in the name of vitalism. There is no other project to follow but that of the enlightenment. That is, the one of extinction through knowledge.