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Friday, 9 March 2012

Nature as a board

I've been bumping into an idea about which I have mixed feelings. I'm writing a chapter on the ontology of doubts for my book, provisionally called Being Up for Grabs - On Speculative Anarcheology. There I present the structure of doubts and certainties and make that structure into
something that is not ours, but rather natural. Nature does not deal in determinations but rather in a board where doubts require determinations and determinations open the way for doubts - as each doubt needs a ground. Nature appears therefore as a board where the game of doubting (and that of holding fast to some determinations) take place. One can hold fast to some certainties at the cost of doubting what comes on their way and one can hold fast to doubts at the cost of exorcising the appeal of some certainties. Also, I have been working on some interesting ideas in universal logic that make me wonder whether the plurality of logics - the menu of logics, if you want - is itself out there, like a natural board again. The plurality is there, and it is as if it is up for somebody else to play in that board. I dislike the idea of board if I have to make it structured in a way that it is itself made of determinations - and not doubted, not somehow up for grabs. If it is a general structure - maybe a formal element - of nature, it doesn't sound like what I'm looking for.

But the idea of a board is in other senses interesting. The board is not necessarily made for a single game - and clearly in the case of the ontology of doubts, many games can be played in the board. The question is: who are the players. We can take agents (and actants) to be players in that board - players that shape it like life and movement on earth shaped its geological structure. It is again the idea of a natural second creation - dear to most process philosophies - that act on what is an underlying (but mutable) board. We can then say that agents and actants hold fast to some determinations (and doubts), that they act according to one or another logic (using an interesting characterisation of logic that I'm playing with - that seems more economic than Tarski's notion that a logic L is the pair of a set of propositions and an operator of consequence). The board itself - say, the multiplicity of logics - comes out of those moves in the many games. The board doesn't come first, it is made in the process - like something that registers existence. It is as if nature were just exactly like the geology of earth.


  1. Perhaps you could add Feyerabend to your list of "process philosophers". Feyerabend convincingly argued for the necessity of a methodological principle of tenacity (your "holding fast") and a principle of proliferation ("doubting") in scientific and artistic practice. In his later work (CONQUEST OF ABUNDANCE) he ontologically extends his ideas to the thesis of nature as "an artifact, constructed by scientists and artisans, throughout centuries, from a partly yielding, partly resisting substance of unknown properties" (p223).

    1. Yes, I like when Feyerabend hints at processes brought about by actants. I also like his take on proliferation. I've been also toying with the idea that Nelson Goodman himself - and his irrealism - was maybe hinting at actants. Or, at least, this is a good way to understand the beautiful expression 'world-making'.