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Monday, 25 July 2016

Trías insights about a language for metaphysics

I ended up in this improbable adventure of translating Heidegger's Die Gefahr into Portuguese. First because I was interested in what is there said about the Lager and about death in general and then because I'm taken by the power of this text and of all of the Einblick lectures. Translating it is very difficult - the first sentence is already a big problem: Das Ge-stell beslellt den Bestand, and different translations render it very differently. We consider doing more than one parallel translation (what the de Campos brothers called a tridução, for three translations). While doing this I was involved with reading Emmanuel Faye's well-researched and somehow claustrophobic "Heidegger et l'introduction du nazisme en philosophie" together with a book by Eugenio Trías, La Dispersión. Both turned out to be good companions to my immersion in Heidegger's Einblick.

Faye holds that Heidegger created an ontological negationism in his Bremen lectures, especially in Die Gefahr. His book is full of important information about how Heidegger navigated between the Nazi establishment and his philosophical convictions. It ends up claiming that Heidegger is no genuine philosopher, which is always disappointing and hard to justify (and claustrophobic). Trías has two aphorisms that point towards a method and a vocabulary in metaphysics (chapter El hilo del discurso at page 80 of my edition Madrid: Taurus, 1971). He says, in my translation: "Good metaphysics present their claims with the most ambiguous signs of a language, those are versatile and polymorphous [...] because these signs can cross different universes of discourse and stay afloat". "The polysemy of language", he continues in the following aphorism, "is the fuel of thought". In the next page he goes: "The crisis of metaphysics [...] is a crisis of expressive resources".

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

BUG's last paragraph

For those (like me) waiting to see BUG (my book Being Up For Grabs out, I post the last paragraph included in the book. It is not the last one in the book, but will appear almost towards the end. The second round of proofs is done so it looks like September will be its season.

In order to deal with the plurality akin to contingency, I have introduced three ontoscopies. The idea in each case is to show that, because not everything is up for grabs and sumbebeka prota ton onton, there is a structure around contingency either making it possible or following from it. Each ontoscopy is a way to view contingency – it can be described as point of view about what is up for grabs. It is interesting to pursue this line for a moment now that we are coming towards the close of the book. We can then find, at least, three points of view: that of the agents, that of the resulting action and a transversal point of view where the effects of agents on actions are considered in a pair with the effects of actions on agents. These three points of view correspond to the three ontoscopies: the monadology of fragments, the ontology of doubts and the rhythm-oriented metaphysics. It is clear that contingency is transcendent if we take the second point of view, but not the others – as the resulting action will involve indeterminacies no matter what the agents engage in doing. If we see the ontoscopies along these lines, we can associate them to the three different modes of existence that the monadology of fragments, the first ontoscopy, affords. The first point of view is that of composers – of agents performing their action. The second of compositions – the resulting doubtful output of all agents. The third of fragments as they are simultaneously available to composers and part in a composition. Modes of existence are not ontoscopies, yet each one arguably entail a point of view. If this is so, the first ontoscopy, postulating three modes of existence, prefigures the overall picture.

Infinite in the trace

In order to make clear the Levinasian character of Derrida's deconstruction today I started my class today on the inscription face/trace. Then I went on saying that there is an infinite in the trace, and therefore an infinite in the text that cannot be fully absorbed and appeals not to be turned into a concept. A text is there to be encountered, and each of these encounter occasions spell its infinity, its openness, its character as Other. To make a text say something specific - and we can turn to papers in a scientific tradition - it has to come with a curatorial device, a orientation that enforces one reading by trying to make sure only readers from a common set of practices will approach the text and read it. The set of practices brings about a canonic reading and text itself can collaborate in strengthening these practices. It would be like taking someone's face to belong somewhere - to be a natural woman, a member of an ethnic group, someone from a subculture - and then maybe also the person can help out reading herself as the such. Still, to see infinity in the face is to read it out as something that precedes and transcends every concept.

A topic that emerges from the constellation I draw in Excesses and Exceptions is that to position something in a space is stop caring for its singularity. In Die Gefahr, Heidegger contrasts Wahr and being neglected (neg-legere). Wahr is true and also care - something like being entrusted. This 'being entrusted' is crucial in deconstruction: a text is entrusted to someone who exercises the ingratitude of accepting it as a gift (the ingratitude is perhaps a transcendental violence) and to read it is to take care of it, to be close to its (infinite) truth. Very different from placing it in a topography where its truth is concealed as it is turned into a concept. To deconstruct is to extract text from a curatorial package - from a set of traditions that inscribe a reading, but don't feel entrusted by the infinite in its traces. Deconstruction is like entrusting texts to a library that engages different librarians everyday.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The ethics of perception: reading and building a nexus

Whitehead understands creativity to be inherent to perception. Also, he sees perception as tied to an indirect object, an (broadly speaking) intentionally developed subjective form. If we see perception as a kind of reading, we can take it as always part of building a nexus, making sense of what is in front of one in terms of what is important, of what makes difference, of what one is prepared to read out. Reading has an ethics perhaps because it requires some kind of nearness that contrasts with what just stands, in the terms of Heidegger, in a position (Ge-Stell) and acquires a standing reserve that indicate an equal distance from everything - a position in a topology where everything is placed in a map that could be conceptual, geographical or like a B-series in time. Things placed there don't thing (as Heidegger says), they just stand in a distance, in the equal distance of eveything like what in a de dicto expression for something. Reading - and at least in some circumstances perception - requires a nearness which is requisite for an interlocution. Reading requires an attention of the sort Heidegger would find in physis, a movement of unconcealment from the concealed that requires the accord of what is unveiled, the thinging of the thing, the opposite of a standing reserve. Reading is only possible from nearness. We only read what is near to us.

Because reading requires a presence in terms of nearness (one cannot focus on more than one reading) it can be interrupted or, as I wrote in a recent post in this blog an intettuption. To be called somewhere else within the text is to attend to its movements of concealing and unconcealing - the physis of the read text. It follows from Derrida's conception of deconstruction that these movements cannot be positioned in a topography as presences but only as traces waiting for a reader. Reading is to attend to these movements and to inscribe something on these movement because the reader is also near to the read text, she is also close and addressed by these movements. The reader also has a physis according to which she conceals and unconceals: she does a writing because she reads. This attention to what is close, to what is being written at the same time and to what can interrupt the flow of reading (intettupt) introduced a responsibility to the act of reading - primarily, a response to the author, to the traces of the author in the text. The close traces that appear: they constrain the reading (the writing) with their acts of concealment in the background of what remains unconcealed. Reading responds to justice - and there are indefinitely many ways to respond to it.

Now, maybe perception is like reading. I believe that if perception is not understood in terms of positionality, it requires nearness. It would be about making a contact that is not necessarily cognitive. If this is so, perception is like reading: it brings about a nexus attending to a matrix of importances, of differences, of capacities to respond. But like reading, it is never writing in a blank slate, it is more like a dialogue where the traces perceived call for responsibility, but the response required is the response of an author (Whitehead's creativity) and not that of whoever follows orders. If it is so, perception is not an exercise in receptivity (in the sense of following orders from a different agent) but more like an exercise of coupling, of counting on what is perceived. (Think of the nearness required for an alliance to be craft, for a deal to be made, for dialogue to take place.) As such, perception has an ethics, that of attending to the demand coming from what is perceived. Such appeal is not an order, but inculcates responsibility. Perceiving agents are not only endowed with creativity, a sense of satisfaction and a goal - they also have a vulnerability to the other they perceive. They can be affected. This is why a nexus built in perception doesn't leave the perceiver in standing reserve (at an arm's length from what is perceived).