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Monday, 4 April 2016

Arché: contingency, agency. (and a note on the an-arché of Spinoza)

I realize a lot of what has worried me recently really revolves around the idea of arché - as commandment and commencement. Absence of arché is a possible understanding of contingency (lack of command, lack of a starting point that starts anything) and a world without agency is arguably a world where chaos reigns - of Meillassouxian hyperchaos. Agency and contingency are two sides of the issue of arché. This is why Leibniz was adamant in exorcizing Epicurean indetermination by random swerves in order to make sure real agents were ubiquitous. This is also why there is no agency in Meillassoux, fragile space for it in Hume (which is dependent, as in Kant, of a duality or realms, a realm of subjective autonomy and a realm of objective anomy) and a limited space for it in a cosmology of swerves - something is slightly out of control because otherwise there is no novelty, which means that the ordinary fabric of being is not laden with novelties. In general, I've been trying to thing the an-arché: the absence of government that could be considered in terms of a lack of agency or as a proliferation of agents each of them in friction with the others - contingency not as anomy but as plurinomy or polynomy. The general task is maybe to think beyond the old western link between onto and arché and try to figure out whether there is an ontology where no arché (or absence of it) plays a central role. This still puzzles me.

When considering a world without agency, I thought of a Meillassouxian hyperchaos but also of Spinoza's immanent substance. His is not an acting substance - not anything with purpose, with sense of fulfillment, with creative capacity or placed in a commanding position. Immanence when complete is very close to necessary contingency: in both cases there is no starting point and nothing follows anything. Spinoza's one-substance system has no place for contingency (no place for plurality) because it has no place for agency - Leibniz's God, in contrast, is an agent because it could have done differently. Yet, the consequence is that things take place without any foothold other than sheer existence.

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