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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Limbale's last-minute-sex-change novel

Just finished reading a 2003-4 novel by Sharankumar Limbale, called Hindu. It is a dalit novel and, being such, it is novel of collectives and is interestingly mostly about public space events. It is about how dalits are forced by multiple powers to accommodate within the Hindu (and often Hindutva) order even years after the Ambedkar's struggles and the help of some legislation and federal institutions. The plot starts with the murder of a dalit leader and ends with the judicial acquittal of the savarna's perpetrators. In the meantime there are two elections, a lynching of a dalit women by savarna villagers, some episodes of betrayal and loads of soul-searching of dalit groups mostly around the convenience and efficacy of converting out of hinduism. The novel revolves around Gopichand and Manikchand, two brothers who act like one and appear as a double - two but acting as one, savarnas close to Hindutva and at the same time hanging out with dalits and providing money for their campaign, electing dalits and making they play the establishment (or the Hindutva) game etc. They make money out of the savarna-avarna conflict - as they say, dalits have to revolt, there is no reason for them to stop the conflict. The conflict is, for the duo, the source of their living and, at the same time, what give them prestige. Also the story is narrated both in third person and my Milind Kamble who is part of the dalit movement but takes part of the night adventures of Gopichand and Manikchand that often involve raping and abusing dalit women. It is a portray of the dead end dalit situation involving most ingredients of their state of affairs: Hindutva, conversion, Ambedkar, avarna women, money and Indian election politics, the lot.

However, up to the very end there are no appearances of hijras (eunuchs, in the English translation). Hijras live like avarnas and are the worse of from the outcast community. In the very end of the book, Milind, the narrator, is inside a car with a woman, Gopichand and Manikchand as they meet the hijras who ask for money and kiss Gopichand's hands (or was Manikchand's?). Then Milind undergoes a sex change. As the narrator, he feels humiliated as his body becomes different piece by piece and comments that he lost his masculinity because he left the dalit movement - gradually seduced by Gopichand and Manikchand's way of life. Confronted with the sudden sex change, the brothers and Shaila Satpute, the woman in the car, laugh at Milind. Then comes the last phrase of the novel: "I held Manikchand's hand, kissing it loyally".

What is this about? Maybe it is about castes really, and women are sometimes portrayed in the book as almost an outcast even when they come from a savarna background. Maybe it is about the domineering role figures like the brothers have, they have money and power and that make them hypermales that feminize whatever touch them. In a desperate novel, though, it is a final touch of desperate misogyny: the sex change makes Milind even more subservient to the double powers that be.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

First pages of the book on animism I'm concocting

The working title of the book is Linhas de Animismo Futuro, (Lines of future animism). What follows is
just the preliminary opening paragraphs, as they are now:

Não um espectro, mas um ancião cheio de plásticas ronda a Europa conceptual – esta que se espalha por uma geometria variável e que se encontra tanto nas academias quanto nos parlamentos, nas repartições de governo, nas corporações. Nem sequer um único ancião, mas muitos: os animismos. Eles são antigos e parecem fantasmagórico, mas parecem também biônicos, cibernéticos e protéticos. Espectros ciborgues talvez. Múltiplos, com muitas caras, muitas cabeças e muitas caudas. São os ecos daquilo que anima os outros: a atmosfera da terra, as populações animais, os insetos transmissores, a microbiota receptora, os equilíbrios ecológicos, o alcance das marés, o objeto qualquer. O não-humano, o natural, o que não passa de um objeto, enfim tudo aquilo que esteve por séculos posto a parte como não mais que um cenário ou uma paisagem de fundo para a aventura humana que é em si inocente de qualquer animação própria, epur si muove.

Os espectros ciborgues plurais são portanto a multidão dos animismos que se regeneram e que se tornam outra vez disponíveis para a convicção e para a persuasão. Pensar de uma maneira animista coordena de modo diverso toda relação que os humanos mantêm com o resto do mundo já que os animismos são uma instância de propagação de protagonismos. Ao invés de nos fazer perguntar acerca de como nós lidamos com o resto do mundo ou como podemos alcançar o resto do mundo – ou se há um resto do mundo para além de nós – eles nos fazem perguntar, sem sequer pressupor que nós e o resto do mundo são times bem definidos, como tudo o que há se alcança e lida com todos os demais. Ao invés de pressupor quais atores podem assumir o papel de sujeito – só alguns – e quais o papel de objeto, eles propõe uma outra trama ou, quando esta trama consolidada e estabelecida parece inevitável, entendem que todos os atores são onnagata – aqueles atores homens que fazem o papel de mulheres no teatro Kabuki japonês – de acordo com as necessidades dos personagens. Ao invés de considerar o animado – aquele que se move de motu proprio, que se regula, que se comanda e que é capaz de começar alguma coisa – como sendo de alguma forma dissociada da fisicalidade, os animismos o encontram por toda parte. A animação não é mais a exceção humana. Nem sequer talvez o produto de uma combinação bem-feita de elementos originalmente inanimados. A animação é apresentada como endêmica.

É certo que qualquer espectro ancião, ciborgue e múltiplo do animismo está em choque com muitas convicções correntes. Ele contrasta por exemplo com a ideia de que há no fundo da natureza leis ou regularidades inevitáveis, com a ideia de que é o protagonismo que precisa ser explicado e não simplesmente assumido e com a ideia de que fora do âmbito humano há talvez reagentes, mas nunca agentes. Este livro pretende esboçar um mapeamento de alguns movimentos em direção a uns animismos nas últimas décadas e também consolidar a tese de que eles formam genuínas plataformas políticas, ainda que de uma política reinventada, deslocada, despercebida e que atenda a exigências bastante outras. Trata-se de um exercício de trazer à baila ingredientes para futuras construções animistas. Ingredientes divergentes; e o livro não se preocupa em fazê-los convergir, apenas em tentar encontrar maneiras de servi-los.

A dinâmica de expansão da animação associado às políticas animistas formam uma figura de perspectiva. O nós em que nos reconhecemos se compõe de maneiras variadas e seu alcance é ele mesma deítico - nós, como eu, ou como aqui e agora, mais dificilmente descritos do que apontados, tacitamente pressupostos antes de explicitamente definidos. O protagonismo não esteve sempre destinado a todos os mesmos humanos – a engrenagem que reparte protagonistas de coadjuvantes foi instalada em diferentes lugares. É uma engrenagem que traça fronteiras – deixando um nós dentro e o resto do lado de fora. Aqueles como nós, os que traçam a fronteira, são os que exercem agência, inclusive para estabelecer, manter e guardar a fronteira. O que está do lado de dentro protagoniza também a distinção, já que é o que está dentro que pensa ou que determina ou que promove começos (e exerce comandos). O que está do lado de dentro é soberano; e soberano para estabelecer aquilo que tem soberania e é arché – arquetípico e primordial, governante e mandatário, comando e começo. A engrenagem que faz esta distinção precisa ser mantida junto com ela, a distinção entre nós os genuinamente dotados de animação e os demais é como uma diferença fundadora que não pode ser perdida de vista, que não pode ser dada como indiferente, que traça uma fronteira que não pode abdicar de check points. Giorgio Agamben (Il aperto) introduz a ideia de máquinas antropológicas como engrenagens a serviço de alguma distinção entre o humano e o não-humano (e também, o sub-humano). As máquinas antropológicas tem que estar em funcionamento para que o humano se reconheça como sui generis, mas diferentes máquinas – ou seja, diferentes distinções e engrenagens – foram colocadas em funcionamento. As máquinas antropológicas, Agamben mostra, têm uma arqueologia.

Peter Sloterdijk (Spheren) entende estes nós cambiantes em que nos reconhecemos em termos de esferas ou bolhas que se dilatam em um movimento centrífugo em que âmbitos menores dão lugar a maiores. Pensando nos termos de uma história destas bolhas, a atribuição de animação não começa com uma visão de terceira pessoa, mas com um nós que é formado apenas pelos chamados humanos direitos – mais ou menos os homens, brancos, proprietários, adultos, não-descapacitados, hetero e cissexuais. Trata-se do sujeito como ele é concebido ainda hoje nos interstícios não-comentados dos modos usuais de viver na modernidade. Quando uma esfera assim é colocada em questão a partir da afirmação de que há protagonismo alhures – alhures há dor ou capacidade política ou direito ou reivindicação – um primeiro gesto de uma política animista foi ensaiado. Outros gestos similares conduzem à dilatação sucessiva das esferas. É certo que o gesto é inteiramente explicitado como animista apenas quando se estende a esfera para além das fronteiras do humano. Porém vale notar logo que o gesto se contrasta com aquele outro que afirma que é do interesse da esfera existente dar importância ao que está fora dela – é do interesse da esfera de homens brancos dar importância aos índios e negros ou é do interesse da esfera dos humanos dar importância à diversidade biológica que está do lado de fora. O primeiro gesto, aquele que inaugura um movimento político animista, dilata a esfera enquanto o segundo apenas a conserva. A pergunta que surge quase imediatamente com a menção de uma dinâmica política animista posta nestes termos é: até onde pode se substituir uma esfera por outra mais ampla em raio e que a contenha?

Nestes termos, a dinâmica política animista nos leva à questão do limite do nós, do limite de um âmbito em que nos reconhecemos. Se não há limite, a animação é generalizada e universal e a agência está distribuída por toda parte. Uma alternativa assim convida a uma bolha de tamanho cósmico, a um nós que abrange tudo o que há. Com isso surge uma cosmopolítica – o termo de Isabelle Stengers para considerar em que medida, como Bruno Latour uma vez vaticinou, a ciência é a continuação da política por outros meios –, uma economia geral – o termo que Georges Bataille usa para contrastar a agência econômica que não está disposta em termos da auto-sobrevivência à um economia restrita que é comumente considerada como a economia1 da escassez humana – e também a possibilidade de uma constituição dos direitos de tudo. Ao longo do livro os direitos não-humanos, de cosmopolíticas e de economia geral reaparecem; cada um deles insinua que quando expandido para além das fronteiras variáveis do humano, as instituições familiares se transformam para além de qualquer reconhecimento – elas se tornam gradativamente não mais mais do mesmo, mas algo de estranho, de unheimlich e de irreconhecível. Surge, prontamente, a questão de se elas podem ser estranhas o suficiente, unheimlich como devem ser e genuinamente irreconhecíveis2 já que falar de política, de economia e de direito é estar em um solo demasiadamente humano.

A expansão da bolha promovida pelos animismos deixa exposta a questão: onde e por que fazer parar a dilatação do nós? Ou seja, como fazemos e porque precisamos fazer uma distinção em termos de protagonismo entre nós e todo o resto? Se há uma genuína fronteira, em que termos ela se institui e de que maneira ela se mantêm? A questão exposta assim é ela mesma um explosivo político pois o expansionismo do nós ecoa já como um projeto colonial de usurpar o território (do inanimado) que nos é alheio – e, ainda assim, ele é alheio a quem? A questão exposta deixa claro que as bolhas dilatantes tem não apenas uma arqueologia e uma história, mas também uma perspectiva: nós, os animados – somos animados porque somos nós ou somos nós porque nos reconhecemos como animados? Talvez a animação não seja ela mesma mais do que uma perspectiva: animados somos nós e assim como os outros se reconhecem também como um nós, eles também se reconhecem como animados diante da inanimação de todo o resto. Ou haveria uma maneira de atravessar esta fricção de perspectivas e de genuinamente alcançar uma animação que não seja irremediavelmente nossa, uma animação dos outros?




Saturday, 26 December 2015

Worlds and monads

The last sections of part 3 of Leibniz's Theodicy makes clear that interaction were part of what happened between the monads in the simulation process that takes place in the Palace of Destinies that Palas Athena guards. In fact, God had to consider all possible worlds in order to choose the right combination. Monads could be taken as building blocks that are agents or reagents. They have all their history encapsulated in themselves and therefore they are repositories of events. In Leibniz, there is an infinite number of them (and not an indefinite number). It is enough for God to choose a collection of monads in order to choose a world. God would consider the different classes of monads. Every contingent alternative was considered in the Palace: sinning Adam with the serpent and non-sinning counter-Adam with the iguana. God considered every counterpart of Adam and therefore the interactions between Adam and the rest of the world were played in the Palace before God. What is missing in Leibniz's monadology is the sense of present time: present time interaction among monads is dispensable (the interaction that matters happens in the Palace), present time decision-making is no more than a shadow of what took place in the Palace and present time hesitation is no more than lack of knowledge. In the simulation process, on the other hand, interaction is present between each monad, their counterparts and the rest of the world.

However, because Leibniz (and, I argue, every monadology) is contingentist, there is no room for trans-world monads. Monads are not like
the alphabet in which worlds could be written. Leibniz has that God chose monads and not aggregates of monads. Plus, worlds cannot be understood in terms of different elements in the set of parts of all monads for monads are never trans-worldly. If one conceive worlds as composed of building blocks of an alphabet, we can consider all worlds in this alphabet as elements of the set of parts of the building blocks. Such a class would be the class of all worlds, possible or impossible - that is, they would form a superset of the class of all possible worlds. In our current work on galaxy theory (exploration of the relation between different logics by considering the different classes of possible worlds - galaxies - associated to each of them) we are considering the relation of access between words of different galaxies. Each galaxy is a subset of the set of parts above. But each logic could be build as a relation from a given galaxy to any other. Monadologies are beginning to look like no more than a small portion of a far ampler space of worlds and relations between them.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Experience in a space of traces (or, more on Whitehead and Derrida)

I've been haunted by this strange and daunting crave to bring together Derrida and Whitehead. I've done that in several recent posts (such as this, and this and this or this). I always do that often especially while reading Critchley's book on Derrida and Levinas (The Ethics of Deconstruction) with which I find myself agreeing with enthusiasm.

In the last few days I came to think that if text is broader than language and written difference precedes (as conditions of possibility) not only meaning and the employ of symbols but also presence and whatever counts as the ontic itsel, writing is the territory where the ultimate object of experience lies. Experience is experience of traces (of writing marks). The Derridean correlate for the ontological difference is that between logocentrism (as in logic, physiology, psychology or ethology) as discourses and text, as the ontological is not the realm of presence - which is transcendentally constituted - but rather the space of traces. It is on such a space that the readers - like actual entities - graze. To be sure, reading is also writing but what is left is primarily traces that themselves carve up differences - the grazed land is the land of differance. Text is what gives rise to both concepts and to the sense of spacial orientation.
It is like the Deleuzian (and Guattarian in Anti-Oedipus) territorial machine. Text is made of traces to be read, to be interpreted. Hence, space and time depend on temporal differences (timings) and spacial distances (forms). This space of traces is what enable readers to read something into this weaving of indefinite differences which are the remained traces. They read through a matrix of differences and indifferences - to say with Whitehead, through their sense of importance. Importance is attached to text to bring in meaning and presence. The space of traces precedes communication and intention. It also makes experience, as prehension, a form of reading the existing text. In Limited Inc, Derrida acknowledges that

[...] the [...] possibility of being weaned from the referent or from the signified (hence from communication and from its context) seems
to me to make every mark, including those which are oral, a grapheme in general; which is to say, as we have seen, the non-present remainder of a differential mark cut off from its putative 'production' or origin. And I shall even extend this law to all 'experience' in general if it is conceded that there is no experience consisting of pure presence but only of chains of differential marks.

Experience is experience of difference (differance), it is experience of what can only be turned into presence if a sense of importance (by a perceiver, an actual entity) is added. An actual entity, an experiencer, is a completed prehension, a completed experience. Both in Derrida and Whitehead presence is explained away (in an at least quasi-transcendental way) in terms of the process of experience. There is no ready-made presence available to experience - experience is an experience of yet unintelligible traces that are never rendered interpreted once and for all.

Now, as Critchley points out competently, for Derrida traces also bring in the mark of the other, they affect. Traces oblige. They make unconditional demands, they make readers go to some directions in their interpretation while avoiding others. In that sense, they are like faces. Faces are text, they are written. Faces are written marks. Their impact on us is often at odds with the conceptual structures that have been used. They resist being conceptualized. Deconstruction, dealing with two texts, two hands, two voices, emphasizes new differences within the text - deconstruction is a triangulation that takes place where presences arise. It is as if two senses of importance were in friction and then new differences emerge. Although it is not easy to explain the process in terms of traces, it is in the space of traces that all this takes place. Traces manifest against the way they are rendered into concepts or otherwise full-fledged presences. They oblige because they generate discomfort to the reader. Such discomfort would be of the same kind, albeit not fully similar, to the effect of the other's face in Levinas. The trace itself has an element of the Dire (of the saying), in contrast to the Dit (the said), in terms of Autrement qu'être. Traces say things that readers try to interpret as what has been said by them, but converting traces into Dit and believing that what has been said is fully present is the rule of the game of logocentrism.

To be sure, the postulation of a space of traces as the ultimate content of experience (or reading, of prehension) could sound like an empiricism unduly ascribed both to Derrida and to Whitehead. Not only there is a non-conceptual content that is available in experience but also there is a sharp distinction insinuated between perceiving (traces) and interpreting them. However, it is clear that intuitions (of traces) without a sense of importance (a reading strategy) are blind (or mute). Traces in themselves don't mean anything - and yet they host obligations. Traces are just traces, there is no ontology of traces - only perhaps a hauntology.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Freedom to

Elizabeth Grosz calls attention to a conception of freedom that contrasts with that of the Kantian emancipation tradition where one is free if one is free from chains, from coersion. Freedom from is freedom to act in a self-determined way - it is freedom for agency, it is not agency itself. Grosz ascribes the idea of freedom to to Bergson´s freedom of action - it is connected to an act that has a drive and can be performed because spontaneity and contingency are present. Freedom to is what is done with spontaneity and contingency and is intrinsically non-indifferent. It is the positive side of freedom - and emancipation. This positive side is not the freedom from that Daniel enjoys in L'age de la raison, which is indifference, but rather the very possibility to act in a specific way. I think freedom to has to be thought in conjunction with Deleuze's claim in Pourparler (166): "si les oppressions sont si terribles, c'est parce qu'elles empêchent de mouvements et non parce qu'elle offensent l'eternel"

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Freedom and indifference

One of the main targets of Leibniz's criticism (directed to Bayle) in the third part of the Theodicée is the idea that freedom involves indifference. Both in the case of God's free (and wise) choice of one among infinite conceivable possible worlds and in the case of human freedom moved by reasons fully known by God. In paragraph 288 he considers that the three only necessary conditions for freedom are intelligence (distinct knowledge of the object of one's choice), spontaneity (absence of external imposition) and contingency (absence of a logical or metaphysical necessity conducting the course of action). (Incidentally, at least the two last conditions can be ascribed to any agent - or actant - that is not subject to further command either by other agents or by necessities.) Indifference, on the other hand, is both non-existent both for God and any substance (including Buridan's ass) and an anathema to wisdom - God acted wisely, this is why some potentialities were already given before creation which was strictly speaking not ab nihilo, see 335. To act freely is to have a purpose and to respond to preferences and not to be unbiased - which is to act randomly.

Contingency is therefore broader than accident. An accident is indifferent whereas a contingent choice is shaped by differences, by what other existing things provoke. In an ontology of agents, contingency could be the result of an agent's choice for a course of action (not shaped by necessity) or the unintended which is the result of many agents's choices. Still indifference is opposed to necessity, accident is a kind of contingency. Because contingency is understood in terms of compossibility, every agent is equally contingent on the others (and under the necessity of non-contradiction). Arguably, every agent has the elements to be free. Compossibility, on the other hand, is opposed to indifference. Here Leibniz's freedom can be compared to Whitehead's creative advance: both are grounded in the opposite of indifference. In Whitehead, creative advance is traced through the sense of importance for each agent (actual entity). Here again, there is no genuine creative advance in an indifferent scenario where nothing is important.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Intuitions need conversations?

Expanding on my previous post, I wrote a post in PhilPercs about the project of understanding propositions as irremediably dialogical. Perception is therefore always two-handed, something is perceived while being perceived, in a conversational structure that cannot be rendered in terms of sheer description.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Celan and deconstruction

In La bête et le souverain 10 Derrida makes a close reading of Celan's Büchner prize acceptance speech Le méridien showing what is at stake when Celan invokes the voice and the time of the other that constitutes his poetics. Few years before receiving the prize, Celan wrote a short prose called Entretien dans la montagne which introduces the issue of the voice of the other. Celan makes a distinction between the language said to no one, that language without me and you, and the discourse addressed to someone, said to someone. Stéphane Moses, commenting Celan's text, compares his distinction with the one by Benveniste, récit and discours, the latter being the language of the dialogues where voices are coupled one to the other and the former that language of the impersonal description. In the text, two Jews, Gross and Klein meet up and talk. At some point they consider the earth and the language used to talk about it:

"un langage qui n'est fait ni pour toi ni pour moi - car, je le demande, pour qui est-elle conçue, la terre, elle n'est conçue ni pour toi ni pour moi - un langage, eh bien oui, sans Je et sans Tu, rien qu'Il, rien que Ça, comprends-tu, rien qu'Ils, et seulement cela.
- Je comprends, je comprends. Puisque je suis venu de loin, puisque je suis venu comme toi.
[...]
- Pourquoi et dans quel but... Peut-être parce qu'il m'a fallu m'adresser à quelqu'un avec ma bouche et avec ma langue et pas seulement avec mon bâton. Car à qui s'adresse-t-il, le bâton? Il s'adresse à la pierre, et la pierre, à qui s'adresse-t-elle?
- À qui donc, cousin, veux-tu qu'elle s'adresse? Elle ne s'adresse pas, elle parle, et celui qui parle, cousin, ne s'adresse à personne, il parle parce que personne ne l'écoute, personne et Personne, et puis il dit, lui et non sa bouche et non sa langue, lui et seulement lui, dit: Entends-tu?"(Entretien dans la montagne, Editions Verdier, 2004, 13-15).

I take this opposition between the language of you and me and that of it and they and this is one of the basis of the idea of deconstruction. The effort is to make written text speak by considering it among different voices. To place text in a dialogue that is not aimed at eliminating the voices in favor of an impersonal discourse - the ultimate truth of the text. It is not a gesture towards an impersonal truth but rather towards a personal justice - personal in the sense of justice among people but also in the sense of lack of permanence for deconstruction is non-ending as new genuine voices can always emerge. Deconstruction is the effort to place philosophy and philosophical texts in something like the Me-You language that Celan talks about. It is about believing in the ultimate need for dialogues.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Externalism about experience

Being talking to Carol Marin about current debates in philosophy of emotion. We were considering whether it is still aptest to make the distinction between cognitivist and non-cognitivist approaches. Maybe the central issue is really around coordination - those who believe emotions are co-ordinated with the rest of one's psychic lives (like most cognitivists but also Gibbard) on the one hand and the Humeans on the other. Also, the issue is that since Aristotle's De Anima (where he separates the animal sensation from the vegetal development) and mostly after Descartes it is common to believe experience (or sensations, or sense impressions or the deliverances of the senses) in a way that is fully distinguished from emotions (or feelings, or sentiments, or affections). This split in the realm of sense and sensibilia shaped our philosophical panorama for centuries. Hence, emotions are irrelevant for empiricism and sense impressions are not emotions and both for no good reasons.

When Whitehead (among others, I'm thinking of Tom Sparrow and Levinas, for instance) challenges this split and argues for a broader conception of experience (see my recent philpercs post on experience without discrimination) he opens the possibility of considering emotions in line with feelings, sentiments, sensations and sense impressions. The difference, to be sure, is that we are not necessarily aware of what we experience. We can have undiscriminated experience that make a difference in our epistemic state. An epistemolgical continent opens up with the idea that experience doesn't have to be awareness to be (epistemologically) good.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Interactions, intra-actions and the present time

Beginning to get acquainted with Karen Barad's notion of intra-actions. The issue that comes to my head is the timing of action in intra-action. Is it the present time of events - that is contemporary to us because it shares our sense of present - or rather is it a presence beyond all present time - a sort of previous time or maybe no time at all?

Much of what goes on in process philosophy - and specifically in monadologically conceived process philosophy, like in Tarde, Latour and Whitehead - is the redemption of the present time as the time where determinations take place. The present time replaces structural relations or ready-made substances. So, in Leibniz's monadology, the presence of God and the interaction between monads take place outside the present time. Relations between the different substances are not necessary ones, as it is not necessary that the world is the way it is. That means that the world and the relation between different substances are not given by reason alone, they are therefore a product of some kind of interaction. In fact, God is present among everything that takes place in the world as He has chosen each bit of the world after considering an infinite number of alternative possible worlds. Hence, that the wind will interact with my hair now is something considered by God when selecting a world to create - the choice was the wisest and the possible world chosen the most perfect. God considered every movement of my hair and decided for one series of movement (the best in terms of maximized uniformity, variety and beauty for the whole world). Likewise, the substances interacted with each other when they where compared with different substances in different worlds. Without the sin, Adam would be someone else, say Adam*. Now, Adam* was compared with Adam in relation to the apple, say. This was an interaction (or rather an intra-action?). As a result of that encounter, it was decided that Adam* would not be part of the existing world and Adam will be such that he would relate to the apple in the known way. All this took place in a sort of previous time (the time of the choice of worlds in the mind of God) or maybe in no time at all. In any case, there is no interaction (and no presence of God in the world) in the present time. In other monadologies - those that Deleuze diagnosed in the regime capture as oppose to that of closure, like Leibniz' - the present time is the time of interaction. The present time is brought in as a deciding instance: what goes on is decided in a time that is contemporary to what is going on. There is no previous time where things are rehearsed and decided. (This is why we have an impression of greater contingency: in those monadologies but not in Leibniz, it seems like things go on only once and einmal is keinmal...).

Incidentally, when the present time overruns every form of a process, it becomes the contemporaneity of the time of the other that doesn't institute anything but simply makes itself present. It becomes an unstructured time. If we take the present time beyond any event, we reach the limit of monadological thinking. There is no more room for an alter-ego, or for an alter-tempo. The present time, with its appeal, dissolves in fact all ontological structure. This is the route opened by Levinas.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Whitehead and Derrida?

Been thinking whether it is just a coincidence that I'm into Derrida now. Maybe there is something to be found in the connection between Derrida and Whitehead. In a previous post
I rehearsed some possible common points if we give a speculative reading of text and deconstruction in Derrida. I just wrote a philpercs post about propositions and perception.

Monday, 19 October 2015

On living agents with head and tail

The other day when we were about to finish a section on my seminar on Derrida's The Beast and the Sovereign we were talking about the ontological turn. Someone then asked me if I had abandoned it and decided to rather go back to text (to writing, to deconstruction, to Derrida). The gist of the question was that prima facie an interest on Derrida's work, unless thoroughly critical, is anathema to a robust commitment to find ways beyond the broadly constructed linguistic turn. I disagreed. First, I tried to explain my growing interest in Derrida (and in Jabès, Blanchot, Nancy) in terms of works like Malabou's where écriture takes a broader scope and is presented explicitly as the opening gate to some sort of ontology (of accident, of plasticity). But then I moved on to rely on the idea that the linguistic turn is not to be just left aside but rather rethought so that its insights can be re-examined in a different framework. This is what I sometimes call "a linguistic turn of 360 degrees" where one goes back to ontological preoccupations after a full round around language. Hence, we can gain insight about indexicality in the world (demonstrative properties, orientation, perspectives) looking at Perry's work on de re thoughts and expressions or at McDowell's remarks about demonstrative concepts or we can learn about attribution of properties in general looking at the way Wittgenstein connects predicate use with family resemblances. With Derrida's deconstruction it is perhaps a bit different - deconstruction moves in many different directions and the way text is a place where differences emerge can be thought in terms of how articulations require text, even if they don't require human-written, correlational text. The idea of a non-correlationist text were we place ourselves amid traces - and not authoring them - provides a 360 degrees linguistic turn but one that certainly takes us to a very different landscape where ontology itself is exorcised not in the name of a correlation, but rather in the name of a sharing text. Our relation to the world appears less as one of apprehension and more as one of co-writing, something akin to a conversation as I wrote in this post last month.

In any case, I find The Beast and the Sovereign filled with interesting points about the difference between who and what - and about the making up of sovereignty and of political areas of governance or jurisdiction. In session 7, the issue is the supplement needed for a command in order to be what it is - the commanded part. It is like a dependence of a governing part on its supplement, the "bêtise" of the other that is either attacked or denounced. There ought to be an area of jurisdiction for every government, something that would be prone to stupidity (to "bêtises", rather) on the eyes of the sovereign. This double structure of sovereignty dialogues with the monadological approach, in Leibniz (or in Tarde, in Husserl, in Latour, in Whitehead). In Leibniz, the supplement question is (dis)solved in the same vein as the difference question is (dis)solved: appealing to infinitesimals. Deleuze, in the first chapter of Différence et Répétition finds in Leibniz a strategy to dismiss difference by appealing to the infinitesimals where being regain a commitment to identity and differences disappear in the name of the smallest component. Analogously, Leibniz postpone ad infinitum the issue of what is governed by a monad - for every piece of matter no matter how small has governing stances inside it. The issue of what is to be governed is resolved by an appeal to the infinitesimal. The governed part is never found before we reach infinitesimals. The problem of difference is in fact very close to the problem of supplement - both are connected to the problem of power which is the problem what is (the what) for which obedience is due.

Further, session 7 articulates the idea that the government-governing pair requires a head and a tail. Derrida doesn't want to side with the idea that only humans have sovereignty (and "bêtise"), as he finds in Deleuze (and Lacan). He rather prefers this conjecture that whatever has a head (and what follows it, supposedly) has episodes of bêtise and episodes where the sovereign head reigns. This is common to whatever is headed and is also composed by something else that is supposed to follow the head (as Agamben would have, following is both not commanding and not commencing). The exercise of command is understood in terms of a who that is intertwined with a what that is supposedly commanded. The stubborn (big-headed) resistance to the head, on the other hand, is what the beast does, it cannot be brought to command, it cannot be made to follow. Animation emerges as an issue of head and tail - of hosting a deontic inside the ontological. There is no genuine who without a what where it is expressed; animation requires not only an anima but also an animated body.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Without barren tautological absolutes

A main difference between Leibniz's monadology and Whitehead's system that we explored this week in my Leibniz-Whitehead course is that Whitehead's notion of process is presented as an alternative to "the reduction of the universe in a barren tautological absolute, with a dream of life and motion"(Modes of Thought, lecture 6, p. 93). There is always a possibility of invention and this is why we can never predict the future: something entirely other could always intervene. The universe is in construction and all fixity is the product of analogical capacities that make abstractions without being able to envisage their scope. In the following lecture (p. 107), he analysis variables and how they get their reference fixed - a x is any x but it become the same after it is introduced. But then he goes on: "self-identity is never complete in any advance to novelty". No whole and no individual is the same across the advances into novelty. Leibniz, in contrast, makes sure the individual monad is the same by equating what it is with the infinite whole - Adam is Adam because it is the only one to have exactly the same life history. The price to pay for individuation by complete history is to take the universe as a barren tautological absolute. Everything, in every world in the pool from which God chose, is determined and could not go astray. Induction is impossible because it attempts to fit the infinite in the finite - not because it attempts to fit creation in the tautological. Whitehead's is a system where expectations meet the indefinite - and, in a sense, actual entities (monads) act as indefinitesimals.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Virtues and virtualities

This is my sketchy contribution to the symposium on Sosa's new book (Judgment and Agency). It is more or less like it was presented last July. It is meant to be part of a volume soon. I guess some arguments are vague but still there is something to it. I called it "Incompetent knowledge - virtues and virtualities".

1.A salient and attractive feature of the virtue approach in epistemology is that it is capable to place human knowledge within a realm of genuinely epistemic phenomena in the world. Zagzebski (2003) diagnoses that we are entering an askeptical period where the threat of skepticism is taken as dissolved or innocuous and epistemologists turn their eyes to the connection between knowledge and the rest of the world by seeing knowledge within a more general context of practices with truth and action-guidance. A symptom of this askeptical turn – or at least of the move towards seeing human knowledge within a broader epistemic realm – is the widespread use of expressions like animal knowledge as basis for comparison with human epistemic endeavors and norms. Philosophers have found themselves having to provide reasons to justify accounts of knowledge that cater for no more than the human experience.

If the goal becomes to understand knowledge using the resources of all sorts of phenomena where truth leaves a mark, to concentrate on human practices could sound parochial and limited. If epistemology is no longer to be placed in a skeptical scenario where each dealing with truth has to prove itself not to be an illusion but rather in a metaphysical scenario where our access to some features of the world is taken as granted, the general phenomenon of acquiring truths is what seems to be requiring an account. Virtue epistemology is best described within this scenario: it is not about convincing anyone that we have genuine virtues geared towards capturing truths but rather to make use of virtues to understand (modest or impressive) episodes of knowledge.

Virtues have been used to bridge the gap between actions and their results – virtues point towards adroitness while considering any kind of goal-oriented behavior. They could be a good starting point to consider human knowledge within a broader context that include animals and other agents. Plutarch, in his attempt to show how animals use reason, in his Bruta animalia ratione uti, appeals to virtues: animals are courageous, prudent, compassionate and even wise; Ulysses' old companion turned into pig by Circe's magic, persuades the Odysseus that his life as a pig is not only happier but thoroughly more virtuous that that as a human. Virtues can be considered in different agents and can be compared by ethological considerations – and Plutarch engage in comparing the behavior of humans and pigs in relevantly similar situations (provided that they can be made relevantly similar).

To be sure, to place human virtues – and human epistemic virtues in particular – within the context of virtues in general is not to obliterate their peculiarity. Likewise, to claim that the virtues deployed in successful human knowledge are of the same sort of those used by other agents is not to take humans to have solely animal knowledge, for instance. To place human knowledge in a broader epistemic context is not to reduce it to something else but rather to avoid taking it as a unique, fully sui generis phenomenon that cannot be explained in relation to anything else. Hence, features of human knowledge – such as its susceptibility to reflection and the import of reflective access, its association to knowing one's own skills at performing accurately, its capacity to discriminate adequate scenarios from others under normal circumstances – are best understood if taken together with other, more general, epistemic events. In his Judgment and Agency (2015), Sosa attempts to provide one of such unified view where knowing reflectively and full well are understood in terms akin to that of animal knowledge – except for a second-order capacity of the knower that is present when full competence leads to full aptness in knowing. I think this is an attractive and fruitful move for it invites an externalist take on reflection and one that doesn't make it a sui generis, dissociate phenomenon.

2.My main contention here will be that knowledge is to be understood as being permeable or affected by truths. I conceive this contention as externalist in the following sense: a genuine episode of knowing doesn't have to be discriminated from episodes of illusion neither by the knower nor by any observing agent. That is, I take discrimination – and not reflective access, as Pritchard (2012) and others suggest – to be the main distinctive feature of an epistemological externalism. In terms akin to Lehrer & Cohen's (1983) new evil genius, there is no independent factor that is common between a knower and her counterpart whose brain is in a vat. However, as Sosa points out (2015: 15-16), this is not enough to dismiss the traditionalist claim that there is nothing in common between the good and the bad cases for there could be something in common which is not an independent factor. There could be a causal connection between what is known and the knower that would be present in bad cases but just not “in the right way” - to use the expression Sosa borrows from Davidson. Similarly, one can be in touch with the truth of one's belief but not in touch with other relevant truths – including truth about counterfactual situations – and therefore fail to know. In this case, the subject would merely have a true belief by chance and her having this episode of epistemic luck will make her access to the truth of her belief entirely different from the access a knower would have.

In any case, I would understand knowledge in terms of access to truths. It is in this sense that the understanding I suggest is externalist: there is no element of knowledge that is independent of truth. Hence, there is no such element to knowledge as justification if justification is independent of what is true about the world. Clayton Littlejohn (2012) has an account of justification as factive according to which there could be no justified false belief for falsehood precludes a belief from being justified. My proposal is akin to his, except I won't focus on justification but rather claim that knowledge in general is to be understood in terms of being permeated or affected by truths.

I present this sketchy externalist account of knowledge because it is useful to contrast it with Sosa's (2015) better virtue epistemology. As it was clear from the early days of the introduction of virtues in the epistemological debates, an appeal to virtues – or, for that matter, on capacities – could be externalist, for one could be unaware of how virtuous one is – or how much of a capacity one is exercising. Bernard Williams, in his Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985), has argued that one can fail to act ethically if one engages with virtues in too much of a third-personal way. That is, if one asks oneself what is the courageous (or prudent) line of action before performing, it could mean that one doesn't have the virtues sufficiently ingrained in themselves for their act to be ethical. If I need to inquiry as to what is the virtuous course of action in this case, supposedly I have to be able to discriminate that my action is indeed virtuous. To be sure, I could be aware of my (apparent) virtue as much as my counterpart whose brain is in a vat but we could be in very different epistemic states for it is possible that only one of us is indeed acting virtuously. Furthermore, if there is a sense of unawareness that could spell virtue, that doesn't entail that unawareness is itself epistemologically virtuous. In any case, it is clear that the emphasis on virtues could be externalist for one doesn't have to discriminate one's virtues in order to be virtuous.

Attention to virtues is certainly a way to entrench epistemic activity within the ethology of the agent – so, for instance, it is part of the human flourishing. However, the focus on virtues is still too much a focus on the structure of the agent – on her internal make-up, so to speak. The knower is supposed to be the seat of all the non-manifest features of knowledge – not due to the truths she accesses about the world (latent or occurrent) but rather due to her competence in performing a skill. The focus is on what the knower is capable of doing, and not on what truths were captured – it is couched in terms of competence rather than in terms of actual performance. Zagzebski has that the knower gets credit for her episode of knowing and that knowledge is some sort of admirable true belief. A belief could be admirable for the competences of an agent but also because it is seated on other truths. Those truths set up the standard to capture them – and competences could be persistently insufficient if they are not tuned to what they aim to achieve. In fact, to each competence there is a class of truths latently accessed by the agent but the different competences are different because they suppose familiarity with different truths. So, to play baseball and to play rugby require different classes of competences (presumably with overlaps) because the games are different – and not because the competences are inherently different. To focus on being permeable or affected by truths is to focus on truth percolations and not on the agent's ways to be prepared for them.

3.Sosa proposes his better virtue theory in terms of a theory of competence (2015: 95ff). His analysis involves his SSS (or SeShSi) scheme: in full competence, the innermost seat of a competence in the agent is joined by the agent being in the right shape – which is also inner – and the outer situation to be appropriate. Full aptness – accurate behavior because adroit – requires full competence and second-order competence in determining one's own competence. The SSS analysis is thought in terms of dispositions (and finks, and antidotes): the seat is not enough, the seat and the shape are not enough. It is like the analysis of first and second potentiality in Aristotle: seat is like first potentiality while shape and situation are more like second potentiality (or first actuality). While full competence requires SSS, partial competence could involve just part of the triad. Like with non-actualized potentialities – or with fink dispositions – there are competences that never gets exercised, even if they are full for there is something that prevent them to be actualized. According to C. B. Martin's analysis of the conditional analysis, finkish dispositions are the main general obstacle to any attempt to understand dispositional predicates in terms of categorical ones in a conditional relation. The analysis has to be restricted to (eventually) actualized dispositions.

Now, conditional analyses are similar to tracking approaches to knowledge. Consider a conditional understanding of knowledge along the following lines: S believes p, p is true and a counterfactual conditional (c) holds:
(c) not-p is true if and only if S believes it.
That is, knowledge is true belief that would be corrected if the world were different. This condition of promptness to correction is what makes knowledge more invaluable – and belief more admirable – than mere true belief. This appeal to counterfactuals often makes tracking approaches look unattractive and encourage epistemologists to cash out the counterfactual vocabulary in different ways. To talk about competence – as it is an appeal to dispositions – can be seen as one of these ways. One ascribes to the subject S an inner structure that predisposes her to track truth. Sosa compares this competence with other non-epistemic capacities and makes use of the SSS structure of competence that is embedded in the AAA analysis of aptness (accuracy, adroitness and aptness – accurate because adroit). There is something internal to the knower that makes her competent if she is in the right shape and in the right situation. She can then access her competence supposedly by applied introspection: am I capable to shoot accurately from this distance (meaning the distance she is in this particular moment)? The question addresses her competence, and not what she will end up doing. She doesn't discriminate cases where she will fail while being fully competent (bad cases) from cases where she succeeds while being fully competent (good cases). But she does discriminate competence. There is room for a competent and yet inaccurate action (a competently formed yet false belief).

4.It is to this analysis of (c) provided by Sosa that I would contrast a virtuality-based analysis. I propose to change the focus from virtues and virtuosity to virtuality and the virtual. The counterfactual (c) could also be analyzed in other (equally modal) terms: there is something about the world that makes the conditional work. So one knows that it is going to rain by looking at the sky and sensing the actualities of the positions of the clouds and the direction of the wind but also accessing the virtuality that if the wind were blowing in the opposite direction it wouldn't rain. This analysis in terms of virtuality is mute about the competences of the agent – what matters is that true relevant virtualities are believed together with the target belief (that it is going to rain). An admirable belief is one that is couched in terms of other true beliefs – incidentally, this is how we recognize genuine knowledge, by considering what else does the believer know apart from the target belief. Requiring known virtualities instead of acquired virtues moves the analysis more towards the external and the manifest and less towards the internal and the dispositional. To know is to know how things are and how they would have been given some other circumstances. In other words, the virtuality approach has that knowledge never comes in isolation, it is always supported by other pieces of knowledge. It is however not enough to take knowledge to be any critical mass of true beliefs.1 The virtuality approach would require the agent to have true beliefs about the relevant virtualities. That is, how the world would behave in slightly different circumstances. To be sure, knowing virtualities – as having competences – is not enough for knowledge and is not enough to discriminate good cases from bad cases, not even if we add the requisite of a second-order virtuality according to which one knows virtualities – for instance in terms of laws – concerning one's reliability (something like “if the wind were moving rapidly I would hesitate in my prediction of rain”).

Further, from a point of view like Goodman's, competences and virtualities are both translatable to counterfactuals and as such they are interchangeable. To some extent, they share advantages and blind-spots. Above all, both rely on counterfactual reasoning. Their truth-conditions are the same and they would be verified (that is, manifest in actuality) precisely under the same circumstances. Verifying competences and verifying virtualities require similar procedures. However the metaphysical import is different: while dispositions are properties of the agent, virtuality points at salient features of how the world is. A view based on dispositions or competences ascribe properties to the agent, whereas a view based on virtualities ascribes no more than the present access to a critical mass of truths. One could, in principle at least, know of virtualities while having no specific competence – one could know about the sky in one's own town in a way that would make she predict rain knowingly there but not anywhere else. Clearly, competences as much as virtualities, can be circumscribed to regions or times – the Barney case as studied by Sosa comes to mind – but talk about virtualities ascribes nothing to the agent but being permeated and affected by truths. What matters is to know the relevant truths, the truth of the target belief and the truth of the relevant virtualities. There is an element of skill associated to attaining truths, but skill – or the virtuous inner structure of the agent – doesn't have to be taken into consideration epistemically. It doesn't matter how competent a true believer is, if there is enough virtual truths captured, there is knowledge.

Sosa (2015: 41-45) makes a number of remarks on how some virtues are not genuinely epistemic even though they contribute to the attainment of knowledge. Considering dedication to investigation he writes:

It might be that someone’s obsessive pursuit of truth, even at the cost of malnourishment and depression, puts them in a position to attain truths that are denied to their healthy rivals. Even if such obsession to the point of ill health does reliably lead to truth on certain matters inaccessible otherwise (even if, I say), the exercise of such personal qualities (obsessiveness) would hardly constitute knowledge. (41-2)
Obsessiveness could help attaining knowledge in some circumstances but it is unclear how it turns a true belief into knowledge (one could phrase the difference in terms of admirable belief and admirably acquired belief). There are all sorts of competences and virtues that could help acquire knowledge but are not manifested in the correctness of the belief; perhaps because the same knowledge could be acquired without it. Sometimes it is just a matter of luck that makes a capacity or a disposition fit to attain knowledge, a luck that is not epistemic luck but that invokes favors of the world in the sense that a particular (non-epistemic) disposition is rewarded with genuine knowledge. Sosa considers the case of the disposition towards laziness who
[…] could have as much knowledge in a given domain as would someone industrious. The lazy knower could just by luck be placed in the position to know, a position that the industrious knower would need to win with much effort and persistence. (45)
My claim is that no quality and no competence can itself constitute knowledge in all cases. No virtue is therefore epistemically relevant in all cases – there are cases where they are epistemically as tangential as laziness or obsessiveness in the examples above. A belief is admirable because it takes into account the particularities of iys circumstances. An episode of knowledge can then be taken at face value: it is an episode. To be sure, knowledge arguably comes in degrees and of it does, those degrees have to do with what is further known around the target belief – what other virtualities are available.

There could be scenarios where a specific incompetence is epistemically rewarded. One could think of episodes where knowing something similar to what is taught could be disadvantageous – cases like learning a language too similar to an already known language. Sosa would then counter that in these scenarios the agent with the specific competence in question doesn't have full competence because there is no second-order right assessment of the competence in the specific scenario (seat and shape could be present but the assessment of the situation in such scenario would be flawed). It is as if there is a full competence applicable to each scenario and assessment is right only if it is aware of changes in the scenario. One has to be competent in soccer to play soccer – because competence in handball could be detrimental to soccer-learning. The main problem here is that of the individuation of competences. How should we proceed to distinguish the different full competences associated to agents in different scenarios? Sosa argues that we don't have to be able to individuate virtues, not even to be able to list them. It is enough to have a matching competence – to have the appropriate virtue. But it is not clear what exactly all this talk of virtues is offering. It seems that what matters clearly is not competence itself, but what it leads to; not only in terms of mere actualities, but in terms of what supports the counterfactual that distinguishes a mere true belief from an epistemic state of genuine knowledge. This is the virtue of virtuality. It provides a metaphysics of knowledge, but not one to do with the inner structure of a successful knower but rather one to do with what has to be accessed in the world for knowledge to take place. To know something requires that one knows enough (of what is relevant for the target belief to be true).

5.In order to elaborate a bit further this virtuality-based alternative, I will close with some brief remarks on perception. Perceptual knowledge can act as an heuristic model for knowledge in general. Let's take a traditionalist view on perception, starting with a roughly Lockean approach to perception: one perceives something real through ideas (of the mind). Perception extends from objects of one's mind towards something real that is being perceived. In other words, I take perception of something real to be indirect – but not by any means illusory or a product of an inference. So, one captures truths by perception through a mediation of the ideas that one forms about what is captured. These ideas are what one is in cognitive contact while being in touch with what is perceived. So, I can have the image of an oasis in front of me while seeing indirectly an oasis (the good case) or seeing indirectly a bright spot in the desert (the bad case). The image of the oasis is not independent from what is being perceived indirectly and therefore is not exactly an independent common factor. (It is in this sense that this is a traditionalist view – as opposed to a disjunctivist view, in Sosa's terminology.) My perceptual contact with either the oasis or the bright spot is mediated by images. Those images are effects of what is seen. In the two scenarios, the virtualities to be accessed are different – what is in front of me affords different things if it is a bright spot and if it is an oasis. I could not discriminate between the good and the bad case and still there could be counterfactuals that would hold between my beliefs and the perceived object. I would have perceptual knowledge if I form an image of an oasis and believe I'm in front of an oasis while indirectly perceiving an oasis and I would believe differently if there were no oasis in front of me (no matter if I could discriminate between the good and the bad case). What matters is that there is some kind of dependence between what is indirectly perceived and the image formed. It is not enough to be in contact with a real oasis, one has to be in a position to know what would happen to one's perceptual state if no oasis were present.

Wettstein (2007), when describing the claim of direct reference accounts, coins the motto “there could be linguistic contact without cognitive contact”. It is not enough for cognitive contact to match linguistic contact – for the match could be due to luck. Consider a case of Gettier-like case involving linguistic and cognitive contact. Suppose S says “Socrates loved long baths” while having only false beliefs about Socrates (beliefs that would be true of Archimedes). Suppose it turns out that Socrates (too) loved long baths. The belief, while being about Socrates according to a direct reference approach to proper names, is only true due to favors of the world because linguistic contact is independent from cognitive contact. The truth that Socrates loved long baths didn't affect S. In order for S to have know that “Socrates loved long baths” she would have to know about the relevant connections between long baths and Socrates and how she would believe something different if Archimedes but not Socrates loved long baths. Cognitive contact – or at least epistemic contact – requires some sort of counterfactual ability, both in the virtue and in the virtuality approaches. In the latter, however, such ability doesn't have to be accompanied by any further competence on the issue. Provided the relevant counterfactual situations are considered, a knower could be utterly otherwise incompetent. The talk of competence (and virtues) is often no more than a shortcut for a more important consideration concerning access to counterfactuals (and virtualities).

Analogously, in the account of perception sketched above there could be perceptive contact without cognitive contact. The image created by perception in an indirect scenario constitutes perceptual knowledge only if it is relevantly affected by what is in perceptual contact with the perceiver. Affected to the point of being sensitive to virtualities. What is directly perceived is not an independent common factor, but rather can be adequately exploited to reveal either the oasis or the bright spot. Knowledge involves an element of the exploitation of the common image in the right direction. If it were a different image, the belief would be affected. In other words, it is not enough to have perceptual contact with the oasis, one should be able to make some sort of counterfactual connection between the image one sees and the perceived oasis. The virtue approach would say that one has to be a competent detector of oases. The virtuality approach would say that one can also appeal to any other kind of competence – a competence in desert landscape, a capacity to locate myself and a knowledge of the map or a skill to detect small variations in humidity – or no competence at all. It is enough to have sufficient knowledge of virtual circumstances to support counterfactual abilities.

References:

Bensusan, Hilan & Manuel de Pinedo (2014). “I only know I know a lot: Holism and knowledge”, Epistemologia, XXXVII: 234-254.
Lehrer, Keith and Stewart Cohen (1983). “Justification, truth and coherence.” Synthese, 55: 191-207.
Littlejohn, Clayton (2012). Justification and the Truth Connection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pritchard, Duncan (2012). Epistemological Disjunctivism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sosa, Ernest (2015). Judgment and Agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wettstein, Howard (2007). The Magic Prism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Williams, Bernard (1985). Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Waukegan: Fontana Press.
Zagzebski, Linda (2003). ‘The Search for the Source of the Epistemic Good.’ Metaphilosophy, 34: 12–28.

Process and deconstruction (and their left-overs)

Whitehead makes a surprising move, beyond his position in Process and Reality, in Perspective, Modes of Thought. He holds that eternal objects themselves have perspectives. Everything that affects the sensible has perspectives. The sensible is the realm of concrescences, where things acquire forms, where processes are issued from their original data. In Forms of process, Whitehead presents the limits of process - what is fixed, concerned with space, time and deity. These are the remnants of process, what is kept in a Heraclitean sensible in constant life and motion. Process is non-ending and terminates in no fixity or stability, but it has its left-overs. Whitehead is close to Plato there: there is life and motion and there is a support behind all, except the connection between the two is not one of participation but rather that of fixed points relating to a flux or attractors relating to a transition. The fixed elements, as much as the unstable ones, have perspectives because they are in the sensible (and not elsewhere, and here Whitehead reveals his Aristotelian face). Abstraction - where one gets analogous processes out of different individuals and analogous individuals in different processes - is not what is kept stable, it is only part of the building of potentialities in order to fuel further processes (they contribute to the secondary nature of God).

Derrida's deconstruction is also in the flux of meeting different voices that destabilize what was previously said in their always coming different sayings. Text is always a new encounter and, as such, the reader is never sure something is being said to her and yet feels its appeal. I take "bêtise" as it is analyzed in the 5th session of La bête et le souverain after Deleuze's original analysis in chapter 3 of Difference et répetition to be an important image for this process: "bêtise" has a role in thinking, a trans-categorial role that could be oblivious to some attempts at critique but is crucial to deconstruction. The challenge is that the reader could always find herself doing a "bêtise". Deconstruction is a non-ending process that produces no stable fixity where things a posit for good and nothing is further imposed by new encounters. It deals in the im-pos-ible. Still, it has its left-overs. What carries on the process of deconstruction is the ethics of reading as an encounter - it is justice to the other. This is a fixed point - or rather an attractor that makes deconstruction move. It is not about the truth of a thought, it is about the truth of an encounter (accessible to thought). Justice could also sound as a Plato-like stable element and it is - but it corresponds to no form, to no idea, to no category. It lies within the practice of encountering another understanding. Justice is not a model but rather it is something that emerges from the process of deconstructing the prevailing categories.

Friday, 2 October 2015

More on contingency as plurality

Been discussing, in my Leibniz & Whitehead course, Leibniz distinction between determination and necessity (or hypothetical necessity and absolute necessity) in the Theodicy. Hypothetical necessity and determination have to do with the possible world chosen - they have to do with compossibility. The world can be determined - so that it is clear that I will buy the bicycle and not get married - but this is not by (absolute) necessity, it is so because the world is the way it is. The world is determined, it is not necessarily so, it could be different because there are many possible worlds, but it is determined because the world is determinately the way it is. I am the one who buys the bicycle but, to be sure, I don't know who I am because I don't know in which world I am (there is another suitably close possible world where my counterpart gets married). Still, my ignorance is not an ignorance of a necessity, it is an ignorance of a contingent matter of fact - this is the world that was chosen among the many possible ones. My contingent options ahead of me reflect the two worlds where I could be - nothing necessary attaches me to this world in particular. God chose it out of His free will, informed by his sense of justice and wisdom. It was a choice out of infinite alternatives. A choice - albeit a supposedly (very) well-informed choice.

This can be seen more clearly if we put aside for a moment the idea that this is the best possible world and was chosen by an all-just and all-wise God. Suppose this world was chosen by the throw of a die. The contingent element would be there, the choice of world would have been up for grabs before the die was thrown. It would be contingent that I am the one that buys the bicycle, but well determined at the moment of my choice. Contingency is not necessarily about individual actions, in fact contingency builds on contingency just as plurality builds on plurality. But a random starting point makes the whole course of actions that follow ungoverned - even though it is fully determined.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Impossible logics or logic beyond the linguistic turn? A debate with myself

In opposition to what I wrote in the last post, I now think that maybe all constellations correspond to a logic, no matter if they are formulated at all. See my post in philpercs

Are some logics universally impossible?

Leibniz and Whitehead as ontologists of agents and on metaphysicians of perspective agree that when we consider the whole process (or the whole class of monads) there are no contradictions. Yet, finite beings can only coordinate what they perceive within perspectives and are guided by finite lab-like simplifications of the whole. These simplifications cannot be taken apart from the whole, and yet they provide some sort of mathesis localis. Maybe we can think of different logical systems in this way: they capture something but only by failing to be fully coordinated with all the rest.

In our investigation of galaxies (classes of possible worlds associated to each logic), we are now wondering whether there are classes of possible world (that we call constellations) that cannot be galaxies. That is, there is no signature F of formulae that could formulate a logic that would make possible exactly the worlds in these constellation. Take a constellations formed by two or more worlds with nothing in common (intersection of the classes of truth in all worlds of the constellation is empty). We conjecture (and provided a proof for simple cases) that there could be a galaxy in any F. In no F there could be a formulation of a logic for such constellation. It would follow that there are constellations that are not galaxies in any F and therefore that some collections of possible worlds could never be such that there is an underlying logic to them. At least not one that can be formulated.

To be sure, we are assume a classical meta-logic for most of our operations and therefore there is some relativity to these results. Further, one could think of logics as something that require no language - and assume every constellation provide a logic even if it is not something that could be expressed otherwise. However, it seems like there are limits to what is possible when we feel the pressure of something beyond the mathesis localis.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Conversation and animation

I've been thinking about what is at stake in conversations. Conversations are frictions of perspectives - they could involve many or just two parts, but not one. They are very different from simple apprehensions of information - something like a mirror image of what is being conveyed. In fact, conversations are not really about conveying anything, monologues get a message through, conversations have a different geometry. Grice's implicatures show that in a conversation interaction there are expectations built both from the conversation history and from the very structure of what a relevant, cooperative, well-mannered, qualitative and quantitative contributive dialogue is supposed to be. What is said in a conversation wouldn't mean the same or even make sense outside the frame of that conversation - contexts are part of the message. It seems further that there is no message without context (and no capture without coordination) for often the only way to find out is to go and have a chat.

As part of the project of a linguistic turn of 360 degree, I was thinking of replacing the model of access (to the external world, to things, to the great outdoors) with one of conversation. Granted, conversations are types of relations (and correlations). Yet they have different features. In a conversation (like in alliances or negotiations), both parts are expecting, assuming, coordinating - they are both experimenting. Conversation is an image of animation - and not one of extracting data from a corpse (from what Whitehead calls "nature" in Modes of Thought - what is devoid of impulse). If we consider bits of a conversation, we can consider them in the age of the correlate and therefore either hostages to one part's spontaneity or escaping from it imagining a correlation that is absolute. But if we somehow exorcise this temptation to isolate parts of the ongoing conversation with the world, we can stop thinking knowledge and aboutness in terms of access and start thinking in terms of conversations. We could exorcise the temptation to isolate bits of the conversation because that would be a perverse way to fall prey of the Whiiteheadian myth of the finite facts according to which a fact could be just a fact. Facts appear only in conversations. Our partner in a conversation can be somehow absolute, but only as much as we are absolute in our engagement in the talking. To know (or to think through) something would be then something closer to talking than to viewing (or contemplating).

Now, if this model could be worked out, it would be a model not only of our knowledge and thinking about the world, but maybe also an image of how things end up being the way they are. If each thing has a perspective on all the rest, each one is arguably in engaged in conversation with the rest where renegotiation is always taking place. They are all in a multifaceted, ongoing, perhaps an entretien infini.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Slow activism

Last week I went to "Desfazendo Gênero", a queer event in Bahia bringing together activists and people reflecting on undoing gender. It was a tense event. Internal disputes framed by a hostile external environment in a reactionary country made it explosive. Keynote was given by Judith Butler who wise enough to sense the atmosphere and defend the rhythm of theory in a very elegant way. Theory building is slow and piecemeal thinking of alternatives and production of different tonalities. Theory construction is slower than usual activism because it can be read as slowed down territory where we can afford some attitudes otherwise difficult and rare. It can afford, above all, gestures of hospitality.

The plurality of formalities

In my work on logical compatibilities and classes of possible worlds (together with Alexandre, Rodrigo and Edelcio) we were led to tackle with the ambiguities in the current use of the notion of a possible world. Sometimes the expression is used to mean whatever is compatible with a given logic - and therefore given, say, classical propositional logic, a single possible world would be so that the snow is white or not. I'm inclined to refer to these uses of "possible world" with the alternative name of "world scheme". A world scheme reveals what is compatible with a given logic but a class of possible world in the sense that different world are compatible with the same logic is what we call a galaxy of a logic and it is can be seen as its ontological counterpart in the space of world. The study of galaxies opens some interesting horizons, one of them - which we haven't explored thoroughly yet - is the very issue of real contradictions, that is of the ontological status of inconsistencies. Or, to put it with Graham Priest, whether a realism about dialetheas is granted.

Whitehead, in his beautiful lecture of understanding in Modes of Thought, opens interesting avenues to think inconsistencies through. He starts out with the very Leibnizian intuition that avoiding contradictions one restricts oneself to a finite realm. Leibniz held that demonstrative reason works within finitude because it is guided by contradiction avoidance. However, Whitehead proceeds, if we consider the infinite agents in process of the universe, there are no contradictions for "process is the way by which the universe escapes from the exclusions of inconsistency" (Free Press Paperback, 54). The idea is interesting: if we consider all processes within the universe, it is possible to show how any apparent contradiction fades away - unless we confine ourselves in an abstraction. So, in the real world (concreteness, or rather the processes of concrescence) there are no contradictions. There is, in fact, no sense in which a contradiction could be found. However, this doesn't settle the case against dialethea realism. This is because abstractions act like a lure for feelings - they increase understanding by making things self-evident. For Whitehead, the importance of abstractions (and finitude) is constitutive of how things are because perceptual experience is widespread. So, in order to make some things visible - and others not - we have different formalities. Galaxies act as guidance to deal with worlds within the universe. Real contradictions are not a human construction out of a world with no contradictions but rather they are ways of seeing aspects of a universe where no single formality prevails.

Note: Whitehead's choice of the word "formality" is inspired. Formalities are what enable finite predictions both through formal systems and through regular behavior within an association (of people, animals, molecules or whatever). Tarde would have that there are some associations that are more social than others - they have more formalities. This is what emerges from a comparison between a Western and an Japanese human society (I think this is Tarde's example, if I remember right) or between human societies and the societies of molecules where formalities are far more ubiquitous.


Monday, 31 August 2015

Importance (and the myth of the given)

I guess Whitehead's considerations about importance enable us to generalize the bite of the myth of the given. I wrote about this in a post in Philosophical Percolations

Whitehead and Marx

Marx efforts to present fragments of a history of class struggles (especially in France, in his booklets on the years between 1848 and the 18 Brumaire of Napoleon 3rd) were an attempt to illustrate a method in historical explanations. This method could be described as that of avoiding the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. One could explain things in terms, say, of the existing legislation or in terms of the current institutions. Marx urges us to avoid that for the ultimate source of the events is to be found in their class agents - to whom a law or an institution (or a tax, a campaign, a candidacy) is of interest? The method is to track down what happened in terms of class agency. Marx procedures also illustrate something else: that events have a perspective that are intrinsically connected to the way things are perceived by each class. There is no sense of history disentangled from a matrix of importances: Marx's writings have to do with a proletarian (perhaps universal, but universal because proletarian, according to Marx) take on what matters. To use the image made famous by Judith Butler: it is not only about the matters (about the facts of the matter or rather matters of fact) but it is about what matters. (Incidentally, Butler's analyses of the body reflect an oscillation between the agency of the body and what is important for it, and the importance of engaging the body in the material agencements of sexuality - in the latter, matter is not the agent, but the place where the effect of the agents take place.)

The appeal to class agents - and to economic agents in general - is (speculatively) extended by Whitehead to deal also with non-human agents. In Whitehead's picture, agents are always impressed by the determination of facts (where they exercise a receptivity) and a matrix of importances - that is embedded in the nature of experience. It follows that in the history of the universe at large, it would be an episode of misplaced concreteness to provide explanations based on laws or institutions (or spaces, or temporalities, or constraints). Concreteness is to be found in agents and their experience mediated by importance. To be sure, Marx's appeal to class agency is not the ultimate explanans either for classes themselves are formed by economic processes. Marxist analyses of politics would evoke interests (importance) and agents. Whitehead would consider everything from this point of view. It is a point of view that makes a large space for perspectives and their frictions.

Friday, 28 August 2015

A fifth mode percolation

I'm now collaborating in the Philosophical Percolations blog. My first post was on Aenesidemus' fifth mode which is here.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

My talk on God tomorrow

Drawing on this post from some months ago, I'll talk in a conference on Natural Theology and the Existence of God tomorrow, after hearing Swinburne's take on God and natural laws. Here is the text of the talk:

Rethinking God
Hilan Bensusan

Believing in God is often understood as an attitude whose content can be expressed by at least these three propositions:
1. God currently exists (perhaps necessarily so);
2. God has a definite nature or essence and therefore can be finitely described (say, as the most perfect being that can be thought or as a unique omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent being);
3. God is independent of the rest of the world – God is prior to all other things (either as its Creator or not).

1-3 are the basis of what is frequently taken as natural religion, for it is commonly held as the minimal common core among any recognizable religion. 1 is part of this core because if God does not currently exist, there could be no difference God could make on the course of things (although God could make a difference in our thoughts, as Pascal´s wager somehow explored). 2 is included in the core because otherwise 1 would make no sense and believing in God would be vacuous, would be no more than a promissory note. Finally, 3 is vindicated by claiming that God is self-standing – like a classical substance – and does not rely on anything else; God has no need of anything else. The three propositions relate to each other in different ways – 3 can be said to ground 2 and these two can be said to ground 1. In any case, they together spell out what is commonly meant by believing in God.

Yet, in the last hundred years or so, there have been advocates of the negation of each of these propositions. God has been conceived as not independent of the world – and therefore not as substance but rather as necessitating something else; as necessarily deprived of an assimilable definition (or essence) and as not currently existing – albeit not necessarily so. To be sure, this recent opposition to these three propositions didn't come from atheists or agnostics who would either attempt to exorcise God from their picture of the world or to show that God makes no difference. Rather, the opposition to 1-3 came from three philosophers who were engaged in trying to make sure God had a crucial place and play an important role in the world. The three independent opposition to each of the propositions attempted to ensure a respectable role and a special role for God in their conception of things. The denial of each of these three central tenets of what is normally taken as believing in God didn't come, so to speak, from outside but instead was entrenched in their robust but reformed belief in God. Denying 1, 2 or 3 was for these philosophers a way to improve belief in God – make it sounder, more robust, more sui generis or more important. As I won't be primarily interested in the detailed argument that based the opposition to each of these propositions, I will only briefly introduce the three characters.

Chronologically, I start with the denial of 3. Whitehead intended to take God not as “an exception to all metaphysical principles, invoked to save their collapse” but as “their chief exemplification” (PR: 343). He conceived the world as composed of actual entities, God among them, that enjoy an interdependence between them. Each actual occasion – actual entities that are not God – have their creative process inscribed in the consequent nature of God, he claims that such nature is “the fluent world become everlasting by its objective immortality in God” (PR: 347). As “the objective immortality of actual occasions requires the primordial permanence of God” (PR: 347), God is only completed with the presence of an always fluent world. God needs to perceive the world in the interdependence of the actual entities in order to gain actuality for, according to Whitehead, there could be no vacuous actuality – something that exists actually while affecting nothing else in the world. God's nature is given by the world and therefore God as such, and as an actual entity, cannot be devoid of anything else. It is precisely because we need God to attain objective immortality – so that our deeds don't vanish and our creative gestures contribute with the growing complexity of the world – that God's nature has to depend on worldly actual occasions. In Whitehead's scheme, it is not God who wrote the world up but rather the world that makes God what God is. God's nature depends partially on what goes on in the world – God, as much as the world, cannot be defined by anything once and for all for God's nature is determined by actual occasions. As a consequence, God cannot be independent from the rest of the world. Whitehead's theology of process goes ahead to reject 3 and make God an immanent part of a society of actual entities.

The rejection of 2 was put forward, perhaps in a less explicit manner, from the contrasting point of view of Levinas. He purported to make sure God is “infinity” and therefore “unassimilable alterity, absolute difference with relation to anything that is shown, signaled […] or recalled – with respect to anything that is presented and represented and is akin to the finite and the Same” (DH: 74). Levinas conceives of God as the irreducible other that cannot even be understood or described without betraying the sui generis element of an encounter with the divine other. God is completely extraordinary. Levinas' movement is to place God utterly out of reach for any attempt at definition – God transcends any definition for an appeal from the Other is always an appeal from an irreducible third person and this is why the appeal has a force. God's call is neither about reasoning and calculation nor about presentable essences, it is about what moves us to look towards something out of this world. Based on some Talmudic traditions, Levinas understands God as outside the scope of theory, it is in the movement of faith that one ought to think about God – in the practice of being driven towards God and not in any theoretical exercise. That is, in the practice of being centered on an Other, and relying on a God that cannot be described in anything that resemble my own terms. Levinas thus rejects 2 claiming that no finite amount of words could possibly describe God.

Finally and more recently, Meillassoux has famously argued that God does exist yet, but this is contingent. He contrasts this idea with that of the atheist who “is satisfied with the unsatisfied territory that religion cedes to it” (DI: 226) for she accepts the world without God in the terms religion pictures it and tries to make this territory acceptable. Meillassoux rather recommends believing in God because God doesn't exist – belief itself brings in exactly the territory which is deprived to the atheist by religion. He claims that God does not exist and has no responsibility concerning the evil currently found around – in this the atheist is correct for “no one can really wants to be saved by a currently existing God against whom […] [heavy] charges are lodged” (ID: 228). But the hope for a world of justice cannot be exorcized all together – one should not agree with the atheist that God's non-existence is necessary. For Meillassoux, it is only a contingent matter of fact that makes God absent and we can hope for a future where God will come to exist and no evil will persist. For him, this hope is reasonable because everything is necessarily contingent and the only thing reason can assure is that there is no sufficient reason for anything to be the way it is. It follows that God's non-existence is also factual and nothing could possibly prevent the advent of God's existence – for nothing can revoke the principle that makes facticity necessary. Meillassoux, therefore, rejects 1 and holds that believing in God is sounder and easier if God doesn't currently exist.

Indeed, rejecting 1 in a non-atheist manner seems to entail the acceptance of 2 – some definition of God would have to be accepted for one to say that God could come to exist (and hope that would be the case). It could, however, be taken together with a rejection of 3 – although Meillassoux rejects that any action can bring about the existence of God (there are no necessary connections for everything is necessarily contingent). It could be that God will come to exist if, say, the circumstances in the world were favorable, so we could have the rejection of 1 combined with the rejection of 3 (and the acceptance of 2). Also we could have the rejection of 2 combined with the rejection of 3 – God could depend on the world and have no essence whatsoever. To be sure, our three characters were examples of rejection of each proposition on their own – Whitehead accepts 1 and 2 (while making a qualification on the last one), Levinas accepts 1 and 3 and Meillassoux accepts 2 and 3 (because God would only come to exist by chance). Also, if we reject 1, 2 and 3, we would have a position that is either unintelligible or irreversibly close to atheism. I'll concentrate on how the three propositions can be denied one by one.

Rejecting 1 has the advantage of dissolving the problem of evil. A (current) non-existent God is exculpated from any ill-doing or injustice in the world. There's nothing God could do because in order to do something, someone must exist. Removed from existence, God is exempt from any demerit (and any merit). Believing in a non-existent God is a purely messianic gesture: it is an exercise in hope. As far as religious belief in God is concerned, rejecting 1 allows for a space and a figure of hope without the onus of explaining how hope mingles with a present state of calamity and misery. Hope is kept intact no matter what happens in the world – and it is associated to the name of God. In fact, messianic hope was often invoked to help dealing with the misgivings of the present; a time of redemption was often associated with the existence of God. Because God exists, claims the argument, better times may come. The revised argument, rejecting 1, will rather go: because God can exist, better times may come.

The rejection of 1 also brings about two issues that is seldom made explicit: the issues of necessity and permanence associated to God. First, existence claims concerning God seem to be taken as necessary judgments. Perhaps because proofs of the existence of God are normally taken to be a priori – if not derived from mere reflection on terms – and persuasive proofs to the contrary are rarely presented as empirical, they have been considered as carrying necessity. This can be read as a legacy from the coupling of the a priori and the necessary and once this coupling is undone, there is room for something to be both a priori and contingent. It is well-known now that Kripke has shown how reference-fixing descriptions can be known a priori and contingent: “cats are animals”, “Adam was the first man” or “Venus is the first star to appear in the evening” are reference-fixing descriptions that can prove to be false; cats, for example, could be shown to be robots and if this happens it could be unnatural to claim that there are no cats. Analogously, one could use the claim “God exists” or “God doesn't exist” as a reference-fixing device (as one can use any predication of God to stipulate what one is talking about). Once we establish with “God exists” what we're talking about – perhaps because God does exist in this possible world – we can try and find God in other possible worlds. And, possibly, fail to find God even in this world for we have defined God as existing only in order to fix the reference of the term. In this case, the existence of God would be contingent albeit a priori. One could also claim that the existence of God is contingent because is an a posteriori judgment – for instance, justified by inductive arguments. If inductive arguments from perceptual data concerning what goes on in this world, the conclusion is dependent on the data used and therefore on the possible world where this data comes from. The existence of God would therefore be contingent as a consequence of being grounded in empirical, for instance, inductive arguments. Or, at least, it would be logically contingent or metaphysically contingent – while still being physically (or factually) non-contingent. This is a position open to advocates of inductive arguments for the existence of God, such as Richard Swinburne. In general, God has been often conceived as a necessary, trans-world entity. But if we take God as worldly, it is possible to compare a Godly world with a Godless world and this again can inspire hope. In other worlds, it could be desirable to understand God as contingent.

The second issue brought about by the rejection of 1 is the permanence of God – God's subsistence in time. The issue now is not about the trans-world presence of God but rather about his presence in all epochs. Neither the atheist is ready to contemplate a future where God has come to existence, nor the believer considers seriously the possibility of God's death. Yet a temporary God is a possible article of faith: God could have ceased to exist after creation – or after an equally suitable remarkable event – and could be, as we saw, a promise for the future (or could be intermittent: a recent novelty with days counted, for example). A provisional God would be less of a substance – understood as self-standing or as a variation of something that is causa sui (Meillassoux's God is not causa sui because there are no causes in his universe). A God with an end and a start surely raises problems concerning sovereignty; Meillassoux himself is clear that his principle of facticity according to which everything is necessarily contingent cannot be affected by (an eventually existing) God. A non-ever-lasting God cannot be omnipotent for there ought to be other forces that would have brought about God's commencement or promote God's end. Although less than omnipotent, a non-ever-lasting God needs not be contemporary of bad times. Tim Williamson has hinted that there are connections between permanentism – the thesis that everything that exists, exists permanently – (and temporarism, its negation) with necessitism – the thesis that everything that exists, exists necessarily – (and contingentism, is negation). Similarly, the contingency of God's existence strongly suggests is temporary nature – and this is the case in Meillassoux. A temporary God is one that can be associated with the best of times, in the future or in the past

Rejecting 2 separates out one's belief in God and one's beliefs about God. There could be a contact and a relation to God – for instance that of faith, reliance or obedience – not mediated by any cognitive access at all, for there is nothing to be known about God, apart from one's acquaintance with God. Faith is made independent of any theology in the broad sense of the term for there is no room at all for any theological knowledge – there is nothing to be known. There have been many movements towards asserting the priority of a relation of faith and reliance over knowledge or belief concerning religious matter: asserting a certain primacy of the religious practice. An explicit rejection of 2 places the force of an appeal from God – and the strength of faith – before any theoretical effort in a strong basis as there is nothing about God to be known. If 2 is rejected while 1 is accepted, the only fact about God is that God exists – and maybe relates personally with some (other) persons. God appears as transcending any theory or any attempt at understanding for there is nothing to be understood. A religious rejection of 2 makes impossible for God to be known without being felt – God is solely an object of acquaintance or rather of a non-cognitive access. There are several ways of conceiving such access that dispenses any contact related to knowledge or belief – Levinas' being one of them. From the point of view of believing in a personal God, such access can be considered as a form of direct inter-personal contact where no description is ever required. The descriptions of God offered by religious texts, for example, could here also be considered as contingent a priori reference-fixing expressions that enable us to know what we are talking about without necessarily committing us to any cognitive access to God. Rejecting 2 enables an account of people's relation to God where nothing could ever supersede personal contact – and one can compare one's relation to God as the one one should entertain with a neighbor: not one of theoretical understanding, but rather one of engagement and concern.

Rejecting 3 would have God as dependent on the world, not as something unrelated to anything else but as something that is affected by whatever else exists. If God is not independent from the world, God can be affected by our acts – for God´s life and even God's nature (as in Whitehead) is dependent on worldly events. Indeed, God is said to feel rage, compassion, love and solidarity towards worldly beings and therefore is deemed to engage in personal and familiar relations with them. Rejecting 3 would take seriously this idea and understand God as in fact to some measure prey to our acts for God is not immune to what goes on among us. Hence, God's rage or compassion, love or solidarity are not just façons de parler, but rather express modifications in God's (emotional) life caused by worldly agents. Religiously rejecting 3 is rejecting that God can be indifferent to our sufferings and achievements. Denying aseity could sound close to rejecting God's necessity (or permanence) for, as we have seen, if God is not always and necessarily there, there should be something else on which God depends. Rejecting 3, however, as we saw, doesn't lead to rejecting 1. Whitehead would have God's nature as contingent on the world but would assert God's existence along with the world. In any case, without 3, God is tied to the world by relations of mutual dependence – the world is not simply a product of God's power, but rather the two are interconnected as if they had a common fate. That would inspire a relation of mutual responsibility where more symmetry replaces the presence of an overarching power.

Rejecting any of the three propositions pave ways for a revamped belief in God (and, arguably, a reformed theism) that dialogues with the positions held by the non-believers. I could not do more than indicate sketchily how this three (or more) alternatives could be construed and how they could be advantageous. In any one of them, something like a mid-way house between classical theism and the many faces of the non-believer could be attempted. I intended to do no much more than to claim that these alternatives are worth pursuing.