Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Reading Kit Fine's old paper on the varieties of necessity. He claims, with provisos, that there are three kinds of necessity irreducible to any of the other two. Metaphysical necessity, natural necessity and normative necessity. It is interesting that each notion of necessity yields a way to conceive of metaphysics. I'd also add what Fine calls logical necessity in the narrow sense - as opposed to logical necessity in the broad sense that would coincide with metaphysical necessity - necessity associated with identities. In fact, metaphysical necessity is connected to a project like Aristotle's ontology of substances: metaphysics as

an a priori necessary endeavor concerning things in themselves and about matters of fact.

A logical necessity in the narrow sense would be associated to the idea of metaphysics as logic:

an a priori necessary endeavor concerning things in themselves and about matters of reason

(a priori knowledge understood either as conventional or as guided by intellectuelle Anschauung). Fine takes natural necessity to be what is typically taken to be necessary and a posteriori. If cats are animals, this is naturally necessary. Fine argues that still there could be, say, Putnam-cats in another possible world that wouldn't be cats but something else that would necessarily be robots. Cats are (naturally) necessarily animals in this world but they are not (metaphysically) necessarily animals because this (natural) necessity doesn't preclude the existence of Putnam-cats in a possible world. If this is so, natural necessity is not metaphysical necessity. Then we can conceive of metaphysics based on natural necessity and take it to be

an a posteriori necessary endeavor concerning things in themselves and about matters of fact.

To complete, we have the Kantian notion of metaphysics based on normative necessity according to which it is

an a priori necessary endeavor concerning things for us and about matters of fact.

Thinking of M4 in Aristotle's Metaphysics, we can take Kant's conception of metaphysics as dealing with the absence of substantiality that makes all sensible things be in a perpetual flow. If there is no knowledge of the accidental because it carries no necessity (no substantiality) - and that means it carries no metaphysical necessity and arguably no natural necessity - then the only necessity left in normative. If there is no knowledge of the non-necessary we make it necessary by norms - at the price of making the judgments limited to what there is for us. We somehow impinge necessity on things (on phenomena) to make them intelligible to us - and known, to us.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Peformance and thought

Been reading Avelina Lésper, a Mexican anti-performance writer. She claims that performances don't add anything to the knowledge, experience, courage and sense of body accumulated by art, science, philosophy and activism. She compares, for example, Marina Abromovic with some Greenpeace actions favoring the latter for the courage of being exposed to a real vulnerability. I think performance deals with the ordinary. It is about bringing stuff to the fore and doing it in the midst of things. I tend to think of it as being crucially stage-less even though Abramovic's (for example) stuff is often protected by the stage-like setting of a gallery. In any case, it has few features that I find interesting. (And, indeed, performances sometimes add nothing to the pile Lésper presents, but surely they're not about adding something to the pile, let alone adding something to any pile in particular.) The features:
1. It starts out with a goal but then gets disturbed by whatever else is around (in galleries it becomes indeed more immune).
2. It interferes in a space of co-existence and therefore is affected by co-exiting with other events.
3. It invokes a possession - it is not a representation but an incorporation of a character. It is a vehicle to convey its theme. Possession could occur in different degrees but the act sets the stage for it to happen.
4. It can go astray - it is no implementation of a plan or a script. It drifts.
I guess these features are also features of thought. Surely, there are different kinds of thought (I was thinking of Laruelle's image of a philosophical decision providing a stage-like setting for thought). But in all cases, thought is not scripted, it doesn't deal in representations and it doesn't interact with other thoughts through as if they were fictional characters to be dealt with through descriptions...

Friday, 16 August 2013


In a beautiful conference on undoing gender in Natal, Brasil. Full of trans activists and academics with all sort of different takes on hospitality towards each other. I presented something on dermativity, or rather on dermactivity - a phenomenological chapter of speculative dermatology: what is it like to be an enclosed skin. Thinking of skin could be a way of focusing exclusion and recognition - issues to do with allowing or forbidding entrance. But the skin is also about receptivity: about what is about to go in or out and the spaces of hospitality. Things with skin - and the skin of things - are capable of hospitality: they can receive and be received as touching is receiving both in the sense of receiving a signal as in the sense of receiving an impact (including a power, an affect). I wonder whether thinking - capable of hospitality and of exclusion (which I think is, for example, present in what Laruelle diagnoses as philosophical decision) - is just an instance of skin. Maybe thinking is crucially dermatological - think of logos, legein, understood by Heidegger as a landing that welcomes. This could be why it is often taken to be about criteria, and about gate-keeping. But it is capable of other dermatological acts. It akin to an antenna because it is like skin - an interface between bodies that think and contents being thought. And an interface capable of hospitality.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Sketching a speculative dermatology

Hume’s attack on necessary connections (and powers, causes, forces) starts out with the remark that while distinct things can be perceived by our senses, the connection between them is always unclear and seemingly unavailable to unaided sensible intuition.
We can use the lever of Hume’s remarks concerning necessary connection and extend his attack to substrata and substances – the permanence of things over time and over changes in the quality space. If we then point out that there is less to the content of sensorial experience than distinct things that remain, we can postulate that our senses give us no more that the joints. Joints that could be borders between things or articulations of parts of things. These joints are the differences between things, not substances but rather the sunekes between substances (the contact between them). They are arguably what is directly sensed (if one accepts the Humean idea that the content of sensorial experience has a fixed form). In fact, we sense no more than surfaces. We then posit some substantiality that those surfaces cover. We understand that the wrap is no more than the skin of something else. (Or we abstain from any postulation as Hume would recommend.) But those surfaces could also be the starting point of a speculative ontology of articulation, of joints, of membranes: a skin-oriented ontology.

Instead of substances (or objects, or things, or individuals), we should look at the divide between them. The divide - the skin - is what ends up producing them by selective permeability. The thesis: Skins are ontologically more important than what they cover. Things are rather made of a skin that divides them from the rest of the world. They have a skin that sponsor a separation between what is inside and what is outside. Membranes are filters that enable elements in and out and also antenna decoders that regulate the interface between signals coming and what to do with them. They determine what difference makes a difference - differences that matters matter to the skin. The skin is what is deepest - as said Valèry. A skin ontology has got also to do with floor (etymologically related to "pele" - related to skin - and to "plane"). It's also connected to contingency, to non-substantial forms. In Aristotle, ousia is already somehow connected to necessity, as the accidental (katà symbebekòs, for instance, in Metaphysics H, 5) contrasts with the substantial.
Membrane ontology - speculative dermatology - could be an way to deflate the ontological import of individuated ready-made substances.