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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Intuitions and antennacide

"I realize that I might be missing my final chance by leaving the phone off the hook, now I only phone out for an ambulance, the firemen or the police [...]
I keep it off the hook. I am not the one for whom the bell tolls"
Charles Bukowski, Perfect Silence

Thinking of the common usage of the word "intuition" as a way to ditch certain receptions. In this usage, intuition is taken to be doubtful or disputable reception, due to its origin that cannot be traced to proper, dedicated sense organs. Its reliability is deemed low because it is not a product of a fixed receptor but rather a sensibility that is taken to be diffuse and producing signals that cannot be traced to well-reputed cognitive source. The epistemic contempt for intuition is part of a device to discard and put aside some receptors while favoring others - it is a chapter of the ongoing epistemicide, one that could be labeled antennacide. In fact, the plurality and unaccountability of antennas is part of what makes knowledge embedded in the world. Receptors abound, things need to react to what is around and to what affects whatever is around. Tarde is inspirational in opening the way to understand each thing in the world together with the societies it belongs - the rhythms it follows, the repetitions that makes it contract habits. Receptors are matrixes of difference and indifference (sensitivity to something, insensitivity to the rest) that were shaped by patters of habituation. They are not limited to the organs of sense, but rather there is a (paleo)political choice of receptors favored the existing organs of sense. Marx wrote in the Manuscripts: "The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history of the world down to the present." It is a labour that involved dismissing other receptors, and throwing all away under the name of "mere intuitions". (In this sense, the philosophical parlance that consider intellectual and sensitive intuition - Anschauung - is politically better if it is not accompanied by a catalog of senses associated to the standard sense organs.)

My recent trip to Mayan lands and contact with the way things are sensed through skin temperature, water flows, smells associated with rain, shapes of the hands and faces etc made me even more aware of this politics of sensorial reliability. Modernity has taken the path of relying on bare senses associated to organs as if nothing else could receive any other message. It is a reinforced blindness - and, of course, a production of a matrix of difference and indifference. Deleuze's theory of time built on repetition (in chapter 2 of D&R) makes me think of how these other sensors can be conceived. Deleuze takes memory to be constitutive of the second synthesis, the one associated with the past. While discussing the unconscious and its virtual objects, he insists that the past qua past is always pre-existing in a way that precludes the original, the archetypical item in a series of repetitions. These pure past object can be inscribed in the capacity, say, of a mouth to couple with a breast. There is no original breast to which the mouth was designed to be coupled with - say that of a mother. Rather, the material configuration of the mouth - that is, roughly, its folds - is what points towards the breast. The material constitution of each thing affords some couplings - and therefore some events - that are pure past if we take the past to be somehow virtual. The shapes of a mouth, a breast, or a knee afford different couplings because these couplings act like attractors. To look at the attractors of a material item - doubtless a study in its affordances - is a way to look at its previous rhythms, the ones that shaped its current form. It is some sort of evolutionary history where current affordances are symptoms of previous couplings - but also of mere affordances (the virtuality of the pure past). In any case, matter is shaped in a way that unravels its previous surroundings. It seems that everything that was once entrained can act as a receptor - the rhythms that crossed it left messages in it.

The politics of modern antennacide is also committed to the fixity in the number of receptors. Receptors abound, not only because the so called intuition can come from everywhere but also because new receptors are constantly being bred. (Incidentally, this is connected to my point with Fabi Borges in our forthcoming text in O-Zone: receptors are up for grabs, they are under dispute, a dispute that also involves the processes that end up forming new receptors.) If we think of the genesis of receptors, it becomes less clear whether there is substance to the distinction between symptoms and receptors. Clearly, the latter is more dynamical but this is no more than a difference in speed - it all depends how long is a "now", say. In any case, receptors are coming and going, they sometimes are almost elusive as they are available for too short to exhibit their reliability. Just like often intuitions are.

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