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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Process, connection and aerial-subjectivity

The thought of connectedness in the world brings up the issue of who is the agent of a connection. Monadologies offer interesting insights into the issue. Monads are infinite in number - and thus irrepetible as infinity hosts difference - and unique. Still, in Leibniz´s monadology, the harmony is there between monads. Tarde´s has a more definite structure - one that he describes in terms of belief and desire. Such a structure is central for various types of process philosophy: Whitehead´s actual entities with prehensions, objectifications etc or Latour´s entelechias capable of crafting alliances and bringing about networks. The structure is what is repeated everywhere and it is where monadology meets recaptulation: no more than the same, repeated elsewhere. Then, the units are units of connection. It is a world of cables (it is as if the mythical serpent that shapes everything, like the Aboriginal rainbow serpent or the Desane anaconda, was no more than a cable with some internal structure - a black box, to some extent - linking its head to its tail). All processes are triggered by these cables, which ought to have some sort of preestablished properties (and indeed some sort of capacities, of dispositional properties) so that they could fit the bill. Leibniz´ monadology bites the big bullett and spreads the preestablished element across the board. This is where it really looks like metaphysics of the subjectivity: making correlation the ultimate atomic element of everything else. Plus, it makes room for nothing but what depends on those wonder cables. In any case, it makes sense to look for structures that are minimal, that are close to invisibility and, in fact, this is a crucial quest for genuine process philosophy in its committment to high degrees of immanence.

Fabiane Borges, on her forthcoming thesis on post-emancipatory matter, develops interesting ideas around aerials. She considers what it is like to be a satellite in order to establish that transmission and reception could be thoroughly spread. She portrays a life that is oblivious to all sorts of signals that broadcast in a different tuning frequency. Aerials display an openness to those broadcasts - they grab signals. Aerials are not yet TV sets that do something with the received signal. Aerials, she points out, are a different kind of subjectivity - that she labels aerial-subjectivity. They are available, they are at the signal´s disposal. It is perhaps like a subjectivity without decisions, a subjectivity open to invasions and yet not quite a blank slate because although it is not tuned to everything, it has always been tuned to something. The aerial itself is nothing but a reception of the other - and if the other is always other, the aerials have different signal history and maybe we can stretch that to mean that each aerial is unique, not duplicable (like the monads in Leibniz). Surely, a metaphysics of aerial-subjectivity would fare close to the predicament of a metaphysics of subjectivity. And yet, the underlying transcendent structure is at least minimal. It is not correlation itself that is on the road to be made somehow absolute but a certain openness to correlation. Aerials are very different among each other but they are all the reverse of a substance. They remain while the received content changes but that means only that no content remains. No inside but a reflection of the outside (like a mirror but never constrained by its sheer locality). Aerials tuned to other aerials; there is a sense in which they are no more than a position, no more than a place-holder for the signals coming. They are all that needs to be prior to any act of sponsoring that make things be what they are (or rather, receive the signal that they receive). Still, I wonder whether aerials are all we need to exorcise the feeling that there are nothing but the same over and over again (in a recapitulated form)...

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