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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The analogical road to identities (and back)

Concepts are kenningar. Kenningar are old Nordic for alegory, or maybe well-established metaphor, or maybe analogy. Borges wrote about them in his History of Eternity. He talks about kenningar as dead metaphors. Like concepts, they have lost their guiding analogy and became petrified. Petrification, however, can be created and often a book or a talk is enough to petrify a metaphor. Often, however, kenningar take longer to show up; many devices have to be engaged in order to slowly petrify identities like, for instance, animals and anima, some humans and roos, human body and matter. I conjecture that animism, totemism and naturalism - three of Descola's four dispositions - emerged from the fourth, analogism. Analogism has that things are originally different and made similar by exercised of analogy - reinstated, petrified thought that brings together some different so that identities contrast with what is left different. So, analogy goes between people and other animals and plant, or between some people and a totem, or between anything physical - the matter kenningar - and when the analogy petrifies it leaves what is out to difference. These other three dispositions are based on petrified analogies. To be sure, one can think beyond the petrified analogies; but this is to go against the representational bias (literally, that is, bias making hard for a naturalist to think in animist terms, for example, could be perhaps measured by a Vapnik-Chervonenkis dimension).

Yesterday, in the Anarchai group on ontology and politics, we were discussing bits of Derrida's seminar The beast and the sovereign. He there examines the petrified analogy between the ungoverned and the beast - and that of the commander and the commencer (very interesting for my investigation of the political question as a question about why there is someone instead of no one). Deconstruction, there, could be seen as the endeavor to de-petrify the established concepts - that is, to denounce the operations that bring things together. As such, it exposes the living metaphors behind the established concepts - the operations that brought about dichotomies like the beast and the sovereign. In this sense, deconstruction is the opposite of kenningarization, what makes analogy petrify into identities orienting thought.

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