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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ontoscopies: metaphysical reasoning through picture investigation

I've been reading Anne Sexton and Peter Handke. Sexton's Death Notebooks and Handke's Essay on tiredness. While writing something on pictures in my Buca L'Ombrello blog, I had some thoughts about how I understand philosophy. I self-quote some bits:

<< The intensity of the picture is enough for me. I don't mind how sad or upsetting a film or a book is - to have a convincing picture is the pinnacle of overcoming the uninspiring. In pictures also dwells Coetzee in his Elizabeth Costello episodes. Dialogues are indeed sometimes explicit scaffolding for pictures. Anne Sexton is summoned in the poem: "Interrogator: One day is enough to perfect a man. Anne: I watered and fed the plant." Peter Handke, in his Essay on Tiredness, is also summoned by an interrogator of sorts. Handke speaks of the heartlessness of his attempt to content himself with "investigating the pictures, or images, that my problem engenders in me, with making myself at home in each picture and translating it as heartlessly as possible into language with all its twists and turns and overtones." Then the interrogator comes in asking about Handke's remarks on the tiredness of working in common and comparing it with the tiredness of solitary work. Handke replies: "When I told you all that, it wasn't for the sake of contrast, but of the pure picture; if such a contrast nevertheless forces itself on the reader's attention, it must mean that I haven't succeeded in communicating a pure picture. In the following, I shall have to take greater care than ever to avoid playing one thing off, even tacitly, against another or magnifying one thing at the expense of something else [...]". The contrast is an after-effect. [...]>>

I then proceed to say that I think in pictures, in plots and not in oppositions: to affirm rather than to dwell in contrasts. To investigate a picture, as Handke puts it, seems a good methodological guideline for metaphysics. In the book I wrote this year, hopefully to appear soon, I present three ontologies under the name of ontoscopies. They are pictures of things driven by fragments, doubts or rhythms. They are pictures: perceptions of what there is. But, maybe because, as Whitehead would insist, perception is constitutively creative, they contrast with each other. What I try to do there is to explore the pictures - something emerge not from the picture, but to its investigation. Hence, for instance, intuition is gained by exploring the world as composed centrally of doubts (or of contagious rhythms). Such method is thoroughly pluralist - there are always more than one picture - while being decidedly realist - there is a reality to be found through the pictures.

To some extent, also, the method contrasts vividly with the pursue of criticism and argument. Determinate negation is the opposite of a picture. Pictures can be convincing to the point that there could be no denial of them that can be held without appealing to another picture. Pictures are denied by other pictures (and deconstruction is at its best when another picture frictions the target one). Negation in itself is often presented as if it can be persuasive simply out of the difficulties of the picture under criticism. I reckon, though, that presenting pictures have often more direct persuasive effects. It is maybe one of those failures in rationality like those that Kahneman and Tverski diagnosed and reported. Like some of the others, though, it is a heuristic failure - it somehow points towards several directions at once. Replace a world of rhythms by, say, a world of arbitrarily timed events. Both pictures suggest. Dealing with pictures is like speculating - a good persuasive picture commands support but also up to the point when an alternative picture replaces it.

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