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Saturday, 18 August 2012

A society of objects

Orientation towards objects, as an attitude that goes beyond ontology and acquires all dimensions of a political stance, opens up the political issues of how to deal with objects. Adrian Bowyer, with the RepRap project, suggests that symbiosis is a relationship with objects that should replace the current one where they are put at the service of our lifes. Currently we can make scarse room for a genuine life for objects - they often appear as the ultimate harbour of lifelessness. In particular, their lack of life is put into our service - we make their existence as an existence at our service. Still, it is clear that they make alliances, they rescue us, they are actants in networks that sustain other supposedly living existences. They carry a messianicity in them - in the Derridian sense that Bennett explores which makes them capable of saving lifes at any moment. Objects appear as a lifeless part of our life but as actants of our political choices - which amount to the way we live - they are part of the political struggles.

A different politics (and a different erotic) towards objects would emerge from Bowyer´s vision that starts with RepRaps. Our relation to objects would involve a community with them, a symbiosis. We give the reprap printers what they need, they give us what we need to have a life that is shared. It is like taking the items in the cyborg life to be companions, to be with us extending the sense of mutual aid for life that Haraway cherishes. Ultimately, such a society of objects hints towards Lovelock´s Gaia. Our mode of life is negotiated through alliances with objects and once they cease to be seen as simply what our arrows of intentionality point towards, they become more like partners in a joint life. As political partners that compose this joint way of life, their force will surely be determined by tests of strength. The strength of a reproducing object (or a universal fabricator of objects) is nevertheless remarkable. It carries the seed of the continuation of a joint life. It looks like objects can become life-sustaining stations and no longer mere items that can be easily replaced. We are then looking at a redistribution of preciosity (and vulnerability): objects will become dearer because more precious in their capacity to sustain a whole environment for a joint life.

Politically, Bowyer´s vision can imply a different territorial machine. No longer the territory of capital that flows between goods and users (and no longer the territory of an owner that overlooks the objects that belong to them) but rather a multi-territorial scheme where services flow from different poles. Objects will then become the inorganic body of humans (as humans will become the organic body of objects), to use Marx´s apt phrase in Manuscripts. A society of objetcs is different from a human society that has diplomatic relations with another society but rather a joint society where objects show up from all sides.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Materialism and universal devices

Last night I was talking to Phil Jones about the politics of piracy. What seems to be at stake, more than fighting against all limitation of access over information and goods, is the defence of some sort of universality. The defence of a universal computer over specialised devices, the defence of a universal fabricator over specialised 3-D printers. Universal machinery means widespread capacity for ontogenesis. It is not about reproducing the existing crystalized objects, in the suitable terms of Joni Kemp, but rather about letting new objects arise. The specialised devices are like controlled flows that a corporation or a government can plumb. A more universal device is an open flow that can go in all directions.

This universality is akin to that of matter. Matter can flow in several directions, the closest to matter one is, the closest to open potentialities one gets. Objects, on the other hand, portrayed as ready-made in their central actuality as Kemp has them (objects are always crystalized items), are like circumvented flows. Matter is what makes it possible for concrete things to become interchangeable - rubbish to become spaghetti al pesto in a fabricator or a bicycle to become part of a layer of the earth after a quake. If this is right, the politics of the Pirate Party should be about matter, about allowing for access to universal ontogenerators and not only to controlled, specialised devices to give rise to more of the same objects.

The biopolitics of worthless life

This is my contribution to the debate on the politics of taking human life to be worthless. It revolves around recent development of negative ethics by my friend and colleague Julio Cabrera:


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Being thrown in Plato´s rivers

In a old and nice little essay on Platonism and the Ockham´s razor, Oswaldo Chateaubriand begins to pave a possible road for a renewed Platonism that would fill the holes which made philosophers so impatiently give up on such a theory about reality as a whole. He disparages against the Ockham razor, which is an absolute principle that favors desert landscapes against all sort of speculation. It has set the stage for confining mathematics to a physical non-place, devoid of any inherent connection to concrete things. In particular, it makes mathematisation something outside the sphere of what there is - to mathematize is to drift away, as the razor inspired projects like Hartry Field´s fictionalism. The razor keeps speculation to a minimum and exiles the products of a mathematizing effort.

My interest in negation and the reality of inconsistencies has driven me towards Platonist territories. The essay came back to my mind: why philosophers are so impatient against an overall view of reality just because there are some flimsy arguments against it? I remembered discussing with Meillassoux about mathematisation. He´s all for it, even though he has reservations against most mathematical doctrines. The problem with mathematisation, I said, had to do with measurement. Measurement is crucial and yet is laden with arbitrary choices from the user - it cannot be good enough to attain absulutes for reasons that go back to the old Wittgensteinian arguments in his Bemerkungen über die Grundlagen der Mathematik: why would I use a wooden ruler instead of a rubber one? Meillassoux didn´t answer quite to the contentment of the Wittgensteinian suspicion in the book. Mathematics is filled with our practices and in particular nothing can be mathematized without having been part of the process triggered by someone doing mathematics. God can only determine something mathematical by doing mathematics. But the issue of the measurement is dramatic only if we place it as the sole point of contact between abstracta and a physical world. If things are less clear-cut and abstracta are somehow part of the physical furniture, then mathematisation could be such that there is room for both a wooden ruler measured physical item and a rubber ruler measured physical item.