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Friday, 21 April 2017

A grand hypothesis

Reading Heidegger's Bremen lectures with an eye on the possible blind spots of the compelling contrast between nearness and positionality (Nähe and Ge-Stell). It occurs to me a grand hypothesis concerning the metaphysics of the other: the epoch of Ge-Stell, the epoch where being is pursued and therefore is in danger started with forgetting the specific strand of parricide that Plato's Strangers promotes and favors in the Sophist. His picture is one where five categories ground at the same plane and are intertwined: rest, change, being, same and other. Not-being comes from the friction between being and other. It is not nihilism in the Severino sense itself, but a branch of nihilism that forgot the role of the Stranger in the parricide – the Stranger creates a new kind of opposition, different from that of Parmenides, the opposition that is not an object standing against but a thing that, while approaching concernfully, interrupts. Interruption is not a negation in the sense of nothingness, but it is the opposite of being. This epoch makes us see the others as disclosing themselves to us, as objects of disclosure. Being becomes being viewed (or being spied) and no longer interrupted by the other that requires a response. The offer becomes no more than something at my disposal, nothing that commits me or appeals to me. The move towards this epoch in the history of being is an economic move, in the sense of a general economy: one is never even with the other when perception takes place. The other appears as a given in the sense that there is an ingratitude required. The epoch of persecution is also an epoch of ingratitude.

Sophist 258: “We have shown what form of being non-being is, for we have shown that the nature of the other is, and is distributed over all things in their relation to one another, and whatever part of another that is contrasted with being, this is precisely what we have ventured to call non-being” and right below: “[…] and that being, and difference or other, traverse all things and mutually interpenetrate, so that the other partakes of being, and by reasons of this participation is, and yet is not that of which it partakes, but other, and being other than being, it is clearly a necessity that non-being should be”. This is prepared through from 253. The parricide promoted by Plato is not that of flooding being with non-being but rather to understand non-being as a consequence of a friction between being and the other – the other being primary to non-being and at the same level as being. Plato's stranger-led metaphysics has ontology in a pair with dynamics, statics, alterology and the study of sameness as its constitutive parts. The other, and not non-being, is at the basis. The image of the parricide is that of a being flooded with other, broken, fragmented and with cracks. Negation comes from these cracks, and not the other way round. An ontologist rebuttal (to use the term of Levinas) based on an ontologist forgetting of the terms of the Stranger's parricide would rather have that everything sprouts from being and therefore ontology is prior – and metaphysics becomes a coherent, absolute, neutral discourse with no blemishes and no rifts. Ontologist metaphysics is smooth, is frictionless, is like a landscape to be portrayed.

NB: Heidegger, S&Z 7C: “Because phenomenon, as understood phenomenologically, are never anything but what goes to make up Being, while Being is in every case the Being of some entity, we must first bring forward the entities themselves if it is our aim that Being should be laid bare […] phenomenology is the science of the Being of entities – ontology”. This is an ontologist conception of phenomenon (and of phenomenology).

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

My first two talks in the LSU

The metaphysics of what is up for grabs 

Hand Out


Is there a metaphysical picture of the accident, the casual, the contingent? Metaphysics is often constructed as about necessities – necessary connections, necessary principles, necessary properties.
*Does a metaphysics of contingency make it necessary?

Metaphysics and contingency – the friction:
1. (Aristotle) Metaphysics aims at finding necessities (necessary relations) in what is concrete. Metaphysical knowledge is knowledge of the necessary (and the permanent).
2. (Heraclitus/Plato/Hume) There are (or could be) no necessary connections (and maybe no necessary properties) in what is concrete. If it is so, metaphysics cannot focus on the concrete.
A conclusion: (Kant) Metaphysics should look for necessary connections (and necessary properties) somewhere else (for example in transcendental norms, or in semantical rules).
Another conclusion: Metaphysics should carry on looking at the concrete and abandon the focus on necessary connections.
Problem: Can the non-necessary be known (or assessed, or understood).
Scheme of an answer: maybe contingency is accessed through its contrast with necessity; maybe only if everything is equally contingent nothing can be known.

The metaphysics of contingency: the Meillassoux approach
Contingency transcends the concrete, it is its very principle.
The principle of facticity is necessary.
The concrete cannot make anything contingent or non-contingent: it has no power or agency to change the facticity of all things (not even God, as a possible being acting on the concrete could).
There is no immanent alteration that can change how things are; contingency is decided outside the concrete – like Platonic necessity.

The metaphysics of contingency: the BUG (Being Up for Grabs) approach
Contingency is immanent, not determined once and for all.
It is related to the other, to the possibility of the other (another agent affecting what's taking place, another course of events, another interfering pattern).
Contingency follows from the possible (immanent) alteration of all things – things being up for grabs.
Still there are necessary things among the concrete:
Symbebeka prota ton onton – an Aristotelian approach. Contingency as the plural of necessities.

Two senses of contingency:
Contingency (as opposed to necessary) – Leibniz's determination without necessity
Contingency (as opposed to determinate) – Meillassoux's facticity as opposed to determination
In Being up for grabs: contingency and indetermination.

Two contingentisms:
Kristie Miller's contingentism: some metaphysical theses are not necessary.
Tim Williamson's contingentism: necessitism (the thesis that everything is necessarily something) is false.
BUG is not committed to any of these two thesis (but its project relates to both).

Three modes of alteration – three ontoscopies:
1. A monadology of fragments:
Leibniz: a doctrine of deterministic contingency.
The general basic features of monadologies:
0. No ultimate entity is like any other;
1. The ontological principle: no entities, no reason;
2. Flat ontology;
3. Everything perceives (esse est percipi AND percipere);
4. No substrata;
5. No vacuous actuality;
Other features: priority nihilism, contingentism, anti-haecceitism…
A monadology of fragments: actual entities exist in three modes of existence, fragments, compositions, composers.

2. An ontology of doubts
Insufficient reason: the principle of indeterminacy vs the principle of facticity.
How to know an indetermination? By doubt?
Ontologies of doubt – doubts require determination.
Pyrrhonism vs Sextus: how to suspend the judgment about determinations

3. Rhythm-oriented ontology
Repetition and the eyes of the beholder.
Contagion and the influence of an event on its neighborhood.
Event-ontology: Carol Cleland's change of a state in a determinable property.
Events as beats: time and timing.

Coda: possible worlds in different galaxies associated to many logical systems.

Being up for grabs and alteration: the co-existence of rhythms, the insufficiency of reason, the plurality of agents. Contingency is a consequence of plurality – it is the outcome of the inevitability of pluralism brought about by genuine otherness. (An attempt at a metaphysics of contingency that doesn't make it collapse into necessity.)

Agency, co-existence and the future of monadology

Hand Out


The ground and the other: from the indetermination (or underdetermination or anomy) to self-determination (or autonomy, or spontaneity, or sovereignty) to ask a question that could be phrased as: how is it like to be a ground (or one's own ground).

Grounding as agency: a ground is a genuine agency – a command and a commencement. An agency-oriented metaphysics is one where agency plays an important role among what exists. It addresses issues concerning the co-existence of agencies (or their plurality).

Agency and intentionality: I take intentionality to be neither necessary nor sufficient for agency. Rather, agency is the understood as providing a determination while not fully subject to another (hetero-)determination (or not fully grounded grounding).

Metaphysics and social sciences: If there is a single agency, an agency-oriented metaphysics draws from the vicinities of theology but if there are more than one agency, it draws inspiration from the social science: how do agencies relate, how they associate, how they dispute territories. In both cases, why-questions are often translated into who-questions.

Agency: the five positions

1
No agency
(or no relevant agency)
2
Agency without agents
3.
Inter-dependent agents
4
Independent agents
5
Nothing but agents
(agents as others)

The (human) social science of agency (the anthropology of agency):
1. There is no agency among humans: everything is determined neurologically or psychologically (or by Gods) or rather the human is a domain of indeterminacies where chaos reigns. Humans are either random beings or programmed robots.
2. There is agency among humans but no (human) agent: agency is not to be found in human individuals but rather in the forces, powers and disciplines that shape them. Foucault: the individual is the product of power. Examples of (social, human) agencies: class, race, gender pressures or the strengths of capital (or the economy).
3. There are agents but they are constitutively interdependent: agents cannot be individuated or identified without an appeal to the (human) social collectives and, ultimately, to other individuals on which they depend.
4. There are independent agents: there is no society prior to individuals, every social connection is created and maintained through independent agents that exercise their identity in a social milieu. Social institutions are to be understood in (methodological) individualist terms.
5. There is no anthropology and no room for any (human) social science: the agents are others who cannot be modeled, explained or predicted. The other agents are, nevertheless, an important source of agency. The presence of other agents provide (at least a degree of) heterodetermination.

The five positions: from anthropology to ontology
1. No agency or no agency in the world (agency is transcendent). Everything is contingent or anomic, Heraclitus; the source of anomy is transcendent (Meillassoux), the ground of everything is transcendent (Plato).
2. Individual agents are grounded on individualizing agencies. Simondon's processes of individuation, Karen Barad's intra-actions and agential realism, a reading of Deleuze's double articulation.
3. Agents are interdependent. Monadologies.
4. Agents are already individualized and independent. Object-oriented ontologies like Harman's, where objects are understood as having a substratum independent of their relations and qualities.
5. Agents without ontology. An agents is an other that can, as an agent, affect me. Yet, each individual agent cannot be less than a ground in themselves. Derrida's infinite responsibility read as an extension of Levinas' claim that I am the locus of response.

The five positions: the pressures on 3


The pressure of 1 is that of an anonymous or non-existent ground – a grounder-poor metaphysics. The pressure of 5 is that of the other as other – the upheavals of metaphysics in an agent-rich environment. The pressure of 2 is that of agencies over the individuation of individual agents. The pressure of 4 is that of the independence and self-contained character of an agent.

The idea of a monadology (3): basic and derivative features

These features are extracted from Leibniz's monadology and shared with (at least several) neo-monadologies (those of Gabriel Tarde, of Bruno Latour and of Alfred Whitehead).
B-0. Monads are ultimate and distinct: They are units of action and ultimate reality while each is distinct from all the others.
B-1. Principle of monadological ontology: Nothing comes to existence or remains in it without the concourse of monads.
B-2. Flat ontology: While there are important distinctions between the different types of monads, there is no over-arching ontological hierarchy among them.
B-3. No substrata: The indiscernibles are identical. A monad is what it is due to its qualities and relations (and in function of its states and the events it takes part).
B-4. All monads perceive: All unit of action is also a unit of perception. Perception is a guide to the interaction between the monads.
B-5. No vacuous actualities: Nothing exists without affecting other existing things and being affected by them.
D-1. Compossibility: No monad is necessary or possible in themselves. Modal notions are relative to what else is in place.
D-2. Contingentism: Not necessarily everything is something. In terms of possible worlds, monads are worldly beings that exist in no other possible worlds.
D-3. Priority nihilism: Neither the whole is ontologically prior to its parts nor the parts are ontologically prior to the whole.
D-4 Immaterialism: Monads are like governments that have respective jurisdictions and pure matter (if conceivable) can only be in one or more jurisdictions.

Five monadologies:
1. A monadology for design (Late Leibniz): Designing the world is designing different and infinitely many agents that are substances (persist in time) but have no substrata. Each monad has a territory associated to it – a jurisdiction – and are related to all the other through its interiority that is composed by a perspective on the external world. Monads are tied by compossibility links and yet a world cannot be made but by delegating events and states to units of agency.
2. A monadology of association (Tarde): Monads are substances that exist while they bring a difference to the society and the society of societies they associate. Monads are units of infinitesimal difference. Units of agency are the sole responsible for any animation in the world and are taken to be pure spirits of different natures. But they do associate contingently to other monads and something emerges from these (heterogeneous or homogeneous) societies of agents.
3. A monadology of actual entities (Whitehead): Actual entities are not substances and are in a constant becoming of other actual entities – yet, they are ultimate realities that enjoy a solidarity between themselves (a co-dependence). They compose what there is by their acts of experiencing (perceiving, prehending) which has, as one of its modes, that of efficient causation.
4. A monadology of networks (Latour 1984): Monads (or actants) can only be distinguished from networks in the context of tests of force – where the strength of unity for resistance is challenged. The monads are the ultimate non-substantial actualities but they cannot be counted independently of their associations – nothing is in itself reducible or irreducible to anything else .
5. A monadology of fragments (BUG): Monads exist in three different modes, as fragments, as composers, as compositions. They don't have substrata but in two of these modes (as fragments and as compositions) they are inert and they subsist if their composition is altered. Each monad is a fragment for composition and a composes by perceiving according to its perspective.

Different monadologies: Leibniz vs process neo-monadologies
Where lies the difference? Deleuze: closure vs capture; pre-established vs post-established harmony; design vs chance.
Leibniz's three times: Leibniz understands the co-existence between his monads as shaped by three distinct times:
1) The time of contemplation: The different infinite possible worlds are presented to God. It is the time of the architecture of the Palas palace, where each room is a possible world. To be sure, the first time took no time at all, as God requires no time to accomplish mathematical operations (concerning compossibility) and involves only analytical truths.
2) The time of choice: Then, God dealt not in necessities, but freely and wisely chose between the different possible worlds that had been contemplated. The choice was global and every element in the each world (including the prayers) somehow contributed to the overall (contingent) choice of a possible world once and for all.
3) The present time: The determined history of actions is made actual as the chosen world is put to run. The compossibility between monads (and events, states, qualities and relations) and the choice of a set of them has been already made.
Process neo-monadologies: the three times collapse into the present time.

Time and agency: If there is no time prior to present time interactions, everything takes place at the same time – and every monad's time interacts with each other. In this dense present time, the others are effective constituents of the action of each agent: each agent act by affecting the others and overall time is always a result of a plurality of agencies.

The agent and the Other

Today I was talking to Jon Cogburn about perception and the metaphysics of what is perceived and it became a bit clearer what is at stake in an agent-based metaphysics (of perception) in contrast to an Other-oriented metaphysics. In perception, an agent-oriented approach will attempt to understand what is perceived as an agent and as such as an alter-ego, filled with the agency and the autonomy I allegedly entertain. As such, the perceived can resist my attempts to understand it and it is viewed only to the amount it shows (or to the amount a negotiation between agents can achieve). In contrast, an Other-oriented approach has no assumption about the perceived other that it offers something and that it demands justice. The perceived tears totality apart. Here there is no model of the perceived: the Other is not an agent, not saddled with autonomy, not capable to resist. The Other is something other that demands justice for whatever is in offer. An impossible justice, as there are many others on offer. Still, a justice.

To say that the perception doesn't have a content is to say that it doesn't matter? This is where the metaphysical question comes in: it is made of offerings, of a plea for justice. To make justice to experience is to avoid saying it has a definite content (of any kind, conceptual, conceptualizable or whatever) while not saying it demands no response, or that it is isolated (or isolatable) from any articulation. In other words, experience has an impact on us as an interruption, as an offering – it is in fact this impact itself. (Maybe something akin to Quinean “something wrong in the kingdom of Denmark”, an impact on a web of beliefs; but in fact an offering or an interruption is not compulsory in itself as the other comes like an offer. When there is a setting for an experimentum crucis, and a result is being awaited, we can say that the doors are open. A recalcitrant experimental result is often left outside in the cold if it was not being expected, awaited, ready to be accepted. Here, however, the Other is constrained to give an already shaped answer, normally yes or no.) It is an impact in the sense of a knock on the door.

I thought this has to do with post-parricide ontology: the five genres of Plato:
1. rest,
2.movement,
3.being,
4.the same and
5. the other.
They are connected and intersect. Nothingness can be understood in terms of the other but being is in an intersecting pentagon with all the other four poles (that could inspire respectively 1. variations of necessitarianism or of a world with no agency or no immanent agency, 2. dynamism or a world full of agencies, 3. ontologism or the idea that agency in hypostasis form agents, 4. the idea of every being as an alter-ego independent and 5. the idea that the Other plagues and dazzles all being). In any case, the Other is what introduces alteration into being, rest and movement. It works as an offer, it is not bare being.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Buber's Saul

Reading an interview answer of Levinas about Buber where he talks about asymmetry as the main feature that distinguishes him from Buber. He comments on a text by Buber about Samuel, Agag, Saul and the Amalekites. Buber stresses that he always thought Samuel must have understood God's message wrongly - the order could not have been to wipe out the Amalekites in punishment and what God was asking from Saul was something else than murdering every one in a town as punishment. The bible (Samuel 15) has that Saul went down to the town and destroyed the weak and useless but kept what was good and also took the king Agag as a prize. Buber prefers to believe God would never ask anyone to do that - to complete their deliverance from evil by doing further evil. Levinas claims that Buber was clearly not thinking of Auschwitz. In fact, he seems right as far as the biblical text is concerned - Saul regrets his sin of disobedience and Samuel states to Agag, before killing him, that he deserves not to be spared and that nothing from that town could be taken for holocaust. It seems like punishment was prescribed. But Buber has an important point here: the idea that God cannot really order punishment. This is not to say that one cannot punish, we punish for many different reasons, but that cannot be a divine (i.e. perfect, morally commendable or right) commandment. I take Buber's insight to be that God's intelligence, wisdom or justice would go beyond what that deals in punishment.

Kant's silencing of the Other

In Kant the other is only considered in terms of her autonomy, as sharing something with me. Kant's ethics is perhaps the origin of the idea of an alter-ego - the other me who is the subject of his ethics. Further, perhaps it is the very starting point of a general idea of ego, an ego that can be generalized like in the categorical imperative: don't do to other what I don't want done to me – and not don't do to others what they don't want to be done to them. Hence, it is moral to tell the truth to the murderer and enable him to kill because enabling someone to so something is an empirical consideration alien to moral issues. In other words, it is up to the murderer to be a moral agent. I should threat all the others in the same manner – the other is universal, they are universal mes. They are never other – I don't deal with the murderer as an other, not even as a murderer for that matter, but only as an autonomous moral agent like me.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Other is not a way out - it is an impossible necessity or just a source of ethical noise

I have been having a very interesting discussion with Julio Cabrera, my metaphilosophical guru, from Brasilia about negativity in ethics. He has been putting forward for years now a negative ethics that is presented in several books including one hopefully forthcoming soon in English. He understands negative ethics as an ethics based on the assumption that life itself has no value. He argues that among other things, his ethics entails antinatalism: procreation, as assassination, is ethically bad. This is the centre of my present discussion with him which has taken the form of three texts I concocted and four replies he sent back. (Some of my texts are in previous posts in this blog). I received his last reply more than a week ago and I'm still uncertain about what is going to be my next move. I'm just wondering now about one feature present in his last text that can be more than a detail.

In my previous text I propose a different kind of negative ethics, one based on interruption. Being interrupted means not to value one's being over the Other, over what comes my way to interrupt my endeavors (my agency, my purpose, my aims, my outlook on things). I reckon this includes also one's ethical outlook. This is why interruption is a form of negation. Cabrera agrees. But he thinks there is no ethics in interruption conceived as such. The other, he claims, is not a way out. This is where we reach a strange aporia: ethics vs the other. In his view, no other could interrupt ethically (my) ethical behavior for that would deviate me from ethics; in my view, if I'm not prepared to be interrupted in my ethical outlook, I'm being attached to myself and my ethical outlook is no more than an exercise in self-celebration with no ethical content at all. One could argue that two (radically different) forms of negation are such that they cannot translate one in another - but would that be the case for negative ethics? If so, there is no two (or more) negative ethics because each sees the other as unethical. Plus, on my view, an attachment to one's ethical outlook at any cost is an exercise in affirmation - my ethical life is intrinsically worth living. And, presumably, Cabrera would have my interruption approach to be too lenient on procreation to be a truly negative ethics. So there is no plurality of negative ethics - they eat themselves up both from the point of view of negation and from the point of view of their ethical character.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Perception as hospitality

In a lot of the discussion concerning the content of perceptual experience and the alternatives to what Sellars diagnosed as a myth of the Given, including in positions that try to avoid the myth while intending to claim that there is a content to what the senses deliver (and not only a causal connection with thought, like in Davidson), there is a tacit and important assumption: that the senses grasp in a flash. That is, perception is not a process bounded together with acts of understanding and movements of intentionality but rather the capture (and eventually the co-ordination) of a state of affairs - such as 'x is red'. McDowell's struggles to determine what is the nature of what the senses deliver - conceptualized content in the form of propositions or intuitions that require conceptual abilities - still fail to escape from the flash predicament. He assumes perception is separable in principle from the workings of the understanding - and response-dependence is set apart from any sort of ongoing interaction between the perceiver's capacities and what the perceived item offers. Receptivity is taken to be an instant and not a process. I guess receptivity would be best understood if considered in terms of the more complex and often greatly tortuous process of hospitality.

Last Friday I had a great conversation with Eli while walking with Vrim across the campus of the LSU and drinking chai at its outskirts. He asked me about McDowell, Travis and the Given. I recalled that Levinas (in Autrement qu'être) claims that the Other cannot be simply a consequence of my freedom (of my spontaneity) neither can she be an imposition (an exercise of exculpation). It's interesting that the Sellarsian debate use words associated with offering, demanding and welcoming: given (as in for-given), exculpations, excuses, responses.
Levinas' observation seems to indicate that the Other in perception what is to be received - maybe given but neither imposed nor constructed. What is perceived acts as demanding reception; hospitality is not a flash like a door being opened. A given is not an imposition and not a construction - it is perhaps like a demand. We have explored the idea that perception is like reading - and always an ethical act oriented by a quest of justice. If it is so, it would be attempting to do justice to the (singular) item being perceived. Perception is like reaching some sort of agreement with something singular - an agreement that responds to what is perceived and therefore involves responsibility. Response is itself perhaps best understood in the context of a conversation with the Other, what is perceived is part of a process that is longer than a flash (x is red) and involves what the perceiver takes as important and how the perceived challenges this by demanding something that can fail to fit the perceiver's expectations. As I wrote last year, maybe intuitions speak only in the context of a conversation.

To be present in perception is not to be represented, but to interrupt understanding (sometimes just to corroborate it). Perception sometimes fail because there is not the right effort to make justice to the singularity being perceived. Perception, like hospitality, requires what Derrida calls "a chez soi"- a framework of concepts, a co-ordination of facts where the perceived item can be received. The idea that there is an animation in what is perceived follows from Whitehead's ontology of organism: what is perceived is itself equally an actual entity. However, in a given episode of perception, for Whitehead, the perceived item is only passively present (even though it can perceive by itself in other episodes of perception). If perception is more like a conversation, subjective forms are always part of an ongoing dialogue. What the hospitality model affords is the idea that the animation of what is perceived is something with which we engage in a personal process when we perceive - and a process that is a non-ending quest for justice. Faced like this, perception is always responding to justice more than to truth.



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Interruption in agency

The challenge of correlationism can be put like this: how can the other reach me (so to break in an established correlation that seems to be what makes thought and knowledge possible). The challenge is indeed often put this way. It can however be understood in terms of agency: how can the other act through me (make me think or know, for instance, what is not already prefigured in me). The issue of the Great Outdoors can therefore be thought in terms of a general co-existence with the other - how can the other be not only interdependent but also external to me?

Last week, in Jon Cogburn's classes about McDowell's changing views on the deliverances of the senses from Mind and World to "Avoiding the Myth of the Given" through his discussions with Travis, we were trying to understand what exactly was at stake in the talk about exculpations (and excuses as opposed to justifications). McDowell refers in a footnote to a discussion with Zvi Cohen around someone being exculpated from being in a banished place because she was deposited there by a tornado. He writes: "Her arriving there is completely removed from the domain of what she is responsible for; [...] there is a basis for mitigating any sanctions." The given understood as an exculpation provides a response to the world (to the other shown in experience) that is only in accordance with the other is, but is from the other, to draw on the Kantian distinction between acting from duty and acting in accordance with duty (see my post last year about it). If one is only exculpated by her senses, one is in a position of epistemic luck - like, say, the character in Meno that rightly guesses the way to Larissa without having anything but a correct opinion. In other words, the problem with the given is that it affords no knowledge because it affords no (genuine) response - I can entertain the (true) content that "x is red" if this is imposed on me by the functioning of my senses but if perception is not response, it cannot affect me as an agent. The vocabulary that Kant chose to talk about empirical thinking (that of spontaneity and receptivity) reveals that he had agency in mind - in fact, the Kantian approach is to consider knowledge in terms of norms and normative necessity. In a broader sense, he introduced the idea of responsibility into the claims concerning empirical knowledge. It is clearly an issue of how to deal with the other through experience. But then the bite of correlationism was waiting in the corner: yes, knowledge requires genuine agency, but does that mean that it involves interdependence and prevents genuine externality? The trouble is that my agency seems to be exclusively mine (and our agency exclusively ours). In other words, it is easy when agency is brought in to feel as if we're engaging in an episode of frictionless spin in the void.

My idea of interruption is that we can break out of this spell if we pay enough attention to what is involved in a response. To respond is to act but also it is to be affected up to an extent where I'm not only guided by myself (or by ourselves). I take the agent to enjoy some solitude with respect to her own agency - what Levinas attempts to show with his phenomenology of laziness. This is where interruption could take place: the other can genuinely act through me because there is always a gap between me and my agency (me and my being, the existant and her existence). This is the consequence of the hypostasis: I carry my being, my agency, but there's a me isolated from that. This is what could be shown by a phenomenology of interruption: when my agenda and my convictions are challenged by another agent that does not take possession of my capacity to act but rather require me to respond (and therefore to act).

In my recent controversy with Cabrera about anti-natalism and negative ethics, I have argued that there is a negative ethics (an ethics that doesn't ascribe any special value to life) according to which one's being is interrupted by others and what follows is an episode of responsibility where a decision is imposed - one could either change path or ignore what is asked by the other. If one changes one's path, there is an interruption-based negation of one's agenda (and one's conception). Cabrera argues that the other can be heard and requires a response only if she is acting ethically according to my own standards (and there are no other standards I can use here). He agrees that an interruption is a form of negation (to be contrasted with his emphasis on abstention that yields his negative ethics that condemns both killing and procreating advocating abstention as a way to affirm the valuelessness of life) but disagrees that there could be a (negative) ethics based on interruption. He thinks that if the other asks something immoral (that I help murdering or that I help procreating), that interruption is not to be considered on moral grounds. That is, an ethics defined in terms of attending to the other is not ethical enough - at least a provision concerning the morality (on my standards) of what is demanded has to be added. This is an interesting case: I would like to argue that if this provision is added, one is again confined within one's own agenda and conception - one is confined in one's ethical outlook. To be sure, not all demands can be accepted - this is what Derrida calls the infinite responsibility. However, there is no prior way to determine which demand of the other will interrupt my path and make me open the door for if there were, my agenda and conception would be other-proof and therefore I would be confined to my own uninterrupted agency - which could be interdependent and interrelated with everything else but involves no friction with an other. (This is why a metaphysics of subjectivity in Meillassoux's terms cannot step out of the correlation.)


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The end of the universal

Read this piece about big data and the company that helped Trump to get elected by directing each of his messages directly to those who wanted to hear them. Dude in the company declares at some point in the text that "My children will certainly never, ever understand this concept of mass communication." That is, communication is turning local, maybe personal, but clearly not universal. It's not about what everyone thinks, it is rather about what a group believes that is a matter of information. Information ceases to be universal because the medium is the message: there is no universal information if there is no universal communication. We inform some about the beliefs of some. There is no mass information, there is no mass communication. As a consequence, there is little room for independent standards - and little room for belief-independent standards. This explains why now the right can freely talk about preferences and even prejudices: there is nothing that can rule how should one maintain one's beliefs. Prejudices are not racist or sexist, they would say, they're just ways to form one's belief that is as valid as any other. The only universality left is that of prevailing (universally). The new thing around is a new right for the post-mass media time: local like corporate America from the inside, uncommitted to universal justice in speech as in act as Moldbug's neo-cameralism and preference-based instead of truth-oriented in order never to be racist or sexist because there is no universally acceptable opinion - there is just one's side. So, no more state that defends a general interest; better to have a corporation that defends its shareholders and experience no limit in their sovereignty. Alongside with than a post-truth era, this is a post-universality era where no one responds to anything beyond one's beliefs.

The emerging image reminds me of Hitlerism as portrayed by Levinas in his prophetic and clarifying essay on it published in 1934. He holds that Hitlerism is a break with the idea that we can examine our thoughts and beliefs and rethink our acts to defend the idea that we are slave to soil and body and ought to be loyal to them. The appeal to the body and the soil - what one is - is crucial: it is not a matter of one's history, it is a matter of being bound. Levinas then goes on to talk about universality in this context and he claims that the only universality left is the one of conquering, of exercising explicit colonial power. That is, the universality of prevailing.

The left has decided to bet a lot on universality (justice, the appropriate stance, universal rights) instead of just defending a different group - for instance, being based on a Pasolinian love of the working class. The working class itself was presented as being somehow universal. The universal was the realm of debate and the arena of the political fight. Not any longer. The right has forsaken it. Next move is to go on explicitly about prevailing. Now, universality was a way to respond to the others. Maybe not the best one. However without it, one does no more than hold on to un-repented, un-enlightened self-interest. The other could be responded on a particular basis but the universal was a way to make it be heard. Without it, the battle between the sameness of me and the interruption of the other is unveiled in its crudest form and made explicit.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Interruption, diffraction

A major issue being developed in my book on interruptions and co-existence is to determine whether the other as such – as what I am not – can be fully made justice in the framework of monadologies. Levinas has critiqued the monadological way out found by Husserl in his fifth Cartesian Meditations because it commits itself to the idea of an alter-ego, of another ego. If we unpack this critique to find the inability of an alter-ego to genuinely interrupt – the inability to do no more than be part of the ordinary course of actions of an agent – we envisage a problem for monadologies that could seem to be remedied by approaches like Whitehead's but not completely. Whitehead understands his actual entities to be oriented towards self-satisfaction given their specific creative capacities and their sense of purpose.1 He can accommodate the other by means of a becoming-other, but not in terms of an interruption. I suspect this poses a general problem for monadological approaches to agency and to process in general. Monadologies seem to be short of a proper process philosophy of co-existence if the others cannot be genuine elements in the constitution of the agenda of the agent. The issue is related to that of the tension between two positions, the monadological and the one where agency floats independently of agents: there is a pressure for process to go beyond the border of a constituted agent, and the Other provides that through a personal interruption. I have been pursuing two hypotheses to accommodate genuine interruption. First, conceiving a neo-monadology that escapes from the predicament Levinas diagnosed in Husserl – I have attempted at that in both Being Up For Grabs and The diaspora of agency. It is not clear, however, whether monadologies have resources to do that – and to deal appropriately with genuine interruptions. Second, put forward an alternative process philosophy that is not affiliated with position 3 – that will be a non-monadological approach to interruption, one where agency is constitutively capable of hospitality. Such an alternative could be based on the impact demands of the other and responses from the agent shape process and therefore provide different novel inputs to the world. This alternative process philosophy, to be clear, is neither of the two positions (classical monadology and agency without agents). Arguably, it is in a different position. To determine which of the two hypotheses are more adequate is an endeavor to think metaphysically about the others – the others of all kinds – and their capacity to affect agency, alter processes and dwell in what is contingent. The project is intended therefore to provide a general framework where the other is not only something that couples with the agent while satisfying the needs present in the agent's agenda, but also capable to interrupt, diffract, alter the course or reshape that agenda. This will be a general framework for co-existence with consequences, for example, in the philosophy of perception where what is at stake is to respond to others of different kinds. In fact, the issue here impacts the various debates concerning projection of one's agenda on the one hand and imposition of something else from outside on the other. Interruption is an account of impact – an account of how something external can affect a subjectivity (and not only destroy it).

Monday, 30 January 2017

Conflicting hospitalities, infinite responsibility and the colonial stance

Few months back when I started getting hooked on the idea of hospitality and the project of an infinite hospitality as a stance against that of glorifying what one is (and being in general), I also into thinking about colonization. I was under the spell of a Nick Land's piece where he addresses the issue of the philosophy of colonization that emerged from Kant's take on the outer world and the very idea of a transcendental distinction. Colonization is the opposite of hospitality: it is the imposition of self instead of the opening of spaces in oneself for interruption. To be sure, the opposite of colonization is multiple because the demands for hospitality are infinite - in fact, it is always a cosmic struggle that one between hospitality (the broken self) and colonization (the expanding self). The choice for hospitality is a negative stance: a stance where no affirmation is made, no gesture of affirmation takes place. It is the negativity of availability. To be sure, the amount of availability that a being can afford is limited - as room for hospitality is always limited because one needs space to host. One cannot be pure hospitability - as nothingness is prey of being in an entanglement that began to surface in Plato's parricide. Hospitality is a necessary impossibility but also the room for conflict - different stances (nations, households, persons, parts of a person) get different demands and respond different to appeals of hospitality. The necessary impossibility is what makes it a denial, a negation: yes, the Mexicas were open to Cortez. They got destroyed, but they were open - and hospitable That is explored in my macehuales (anarcheological) fable in Being Up For Grabs.

The conflicting hospitalities are very much in evidence today with Trump's immigration polices and the resistance that has followed(federal state vs sanctuary cities, government vs universities, national institutions vs international bodies funded by nations, etc). It is not a matter of scale of hospitality - it a matter of different instances, different kinds of "chez soi", to use Derrida's phrase, that can host. Hospitality, as colonialism, starts out with a home (or a self, or a being). One moves towards affirming it and expanding it, making it go further; the other is based on letting it break, not on resigning, but on availability - on the other. Hospitality to the other opens a negative ethic, neither one of refusing to be nor one of refusing to perpetuate being, but one where negation is openness, negation is availability. The negativity is the negativity of the interruption. It is not a refusal or an elimination, it is a fracture - the negation provided by contingency.


Anti-natalism and interruption

I copy below part of the recent discussion I'm having with Julio Cabrera on anti-natalism and the ethics of procreation. I'll be saying a bit more on what I thought today about my own branch of negative ethics in the next post. The idea, however, is that one should give opportunities for ethical acts (or maybe for genuinely novel ethical acts). This could lead to self or general annihilation, but it is lead by a love of something else more than what happens to be. Being is not the guide - goodness is. So, the Mexicas opened their doors to Cortez. That was hospitable and self-annihilating - and different both from abdicating being (suicide where no ethical act can ever follow) and from non-procreation (where the possibility of further ethical acts is abolished).

The text:
O nada ao alcance de ninguém
O outro e a resposta em Julio Cabrera

a) O não-ser, Meinong e o outrinho
Julio Cabrera considera a procriação imoral. Ela tem um caráter muito especial de imoralidade imune à qualquer outra consideração (por exemplo acerca dos que co-existem e co-atuam ao lado de quem age) porque envolve dar existência a um outro. Trata-se de uma proibição moral que não é apenas prima facie – como não é apenas prima facie o heterocídio, o ato de dar inexistência à um outro – porque envolve uma responsabilidade com um outro que é imune à qualquer resposta que podemos dar aos demais (outros). Não é assim com o suicídio já que ele não envolve crucialmente um outro, mas a si mesmo. Na procriação (como no heterocídio) há um outro que deve ser o único a ser levado em consideração; ele escreve:

“[...]o principal “outro” na situação de procriação é o nascituro, de maneira que a ética negativa, em sua vertente antinatalista, é maximamente responsável por esse outro fundamental que é o objeto manipulado num nascimento. […] Haveria uma cegueira para a alteridade em sua negatividade”. Absolutamente não! Claro que há uma preocupação enorme com a alteridade desse pequeno outro (desse “outrinho” ou “outrinha”) que está sendo manipulado (de diversas maneiras). Os "outros" que estão interessados no nascimento de alguém talvez estejam envolvidos na manipulação, e não teríamos por que tentar sermos responsáveis com eles nesse caso.

Há assim uma dispensa especial, se eu entendo bem, nos casos de procriação (ou de heterocídio) de procurar responder aos outros que co-existem com quem age. Nesses casos, há uma resposta que se sobrepõe a qualquer outra – uma resposta mais devida, mais premente, mais inevitável, menos ambígua e mais moral. Mais que isso, responder a qualquer outro outro nesses casos é imoral e só pode ser motivado por considerações psicológicas, sociológicas, antropológicas, de alguma maneira extra-morais. Quando uma heterogênese – uma passagem de um outro à existência – está em questão, responder a qualquer outro que não seja o outro que ainda não existe é imoral. Diante de um não-existente, os co-existentes devem moralmente serem silenciados já que não há mais outro outro para se considerar senão aquele aquele que pode vir a existir.

Esta posição de Cabrera, se bem entendo, está bem ancorada em uma premissa importante da ética negativa: aquilo que existe não tem valor maior (ou menor) do que aquilo que não existe. Ou seja, os não-existentes não são menos valiosos do que os existentes – a diferença entre um existente e um não-existente não carrega valor moral (os inexistentes não são, por exemplo, menos perfeitos ou menos preciosos). Existentes e não-existentes não se distinguem em importância ou valor e nem sequer são tais que os não-existentes requerem existentes. Não há qualquer privilégio dos existentes sobre os não-existentes e, assim sendo, pode haver casos em que nada de atual pode sobrepujar a consideração que merece um não-existente; as premissas ontológicas (e me-ontológicas) da ética negativa asseguram que pode haver casos em que o outrinho que não existe torna irrelevante qualquer outro outro que passa a não precisar (eticamente) ser respondido. O tema da resposta a algum outro, como Cabrera admite quando considera a co-existência como “uma das sujeiras da existência” para aqueles que optaram por insistir, é central para entender a ética quando a existência se hipostasia em substantivo (um existente). Assim, a condenação da manipulação em geral diz respeito a um outro que não pode eticamente estar à mercê dos meus interesses por melhores que eles me pareçam. Cabrera advoga que há casos que requerem concentração em um único outro (no caso da procriação, o outrinho que está sendo manipulado). É este único outro que demanda, que requer uma resposta – é diante dele que somos responsáveis; e nesses casos de vida ou morte em que são instaurados pela possibilidade de procriação, é um outrinho não-existente o único diante do qual somos responsáveis. A ideia é que podemos responder igualmente a existentes e a não-existentes, já que a hipóstase da existência não cria privilégio ético e portanto não nos obriga a responder sempre aos existentes. Nesse sentido, a ética negativa e seu apelo a um não-existente outrinho como único outro nos casos de procriação tem sabor meinonguiano: aquilo que não existe também pode ser considerado (e merecer resposta), desde que possamos descrevê-lo – ou desde que seja um não-existente que instaura uma situação ética (como no caso da procriação).

Uma das minhas teses centrais em meu livro contra o pensamento atado às descrições (Excessos e Exceções) é que qualquer referência aos não existentes (“o homem gordo possível atrás da porta” ou “o homem careca possível atrás da porta”, para lembrar dos exemplos de Quine) tem que obedecer ao cânone descritivista. Não há uma abordagem milliana para não-existentes, os nomes daquilo que não existe não podem ser designadores rígidos kripkeanos (ou demonstrativos kaplanianos). Dito de outro modo, enquanto Cabrera pode precisa ser “o filósofo negativo de Córdoba que escreveu El lógico y la bestia” para ser Cabrera, J. von Kabra não pode senão satisfazer as descrições oferecidas sobre ele em Porque te amo não nascerás – qualquer não-existente que não satisfaça essas descrições não será J. von Kabra. (Kripke oferece uma abordagem da referência ao fictício baseada em um fingimento, porém o problema central de que termos que designam não-existentes tem sua referência galgada no uso atributivo permanece.) Não há um mundo possível (kripkeano) em que Sócrates, o personagem de Platão, não seja um filósofo maiêutico – ainda que o Sócrates existente poderia muito bem nunca ter se dedicado à filosofia e apenas à navegação. Personagens não podem ser identificados senão por meio de uma descrição. Não-existentes, aqueles que hipostasiam a não-existência (o não-ser, o nada), dependem de uma descrição para serem encontrados – e, em alguma medida, para serem o que são. Penso que isso ocorre porque não há co-não-existência. Os não-existentes não carregam também a carga do compartilhamento – a sujeira, nos termos de Cabrera, é própria da existência; o nada (e os não-existentes) são limpos. Os não-existentes não encontram outros não-existentes; eles são aquilo que são como as mônadas de Leibniz, independente dos encontros que ocorrem no tempo presente. Os não-existentes não convivem, não coincidem, não se esbarram – a fronteira entre o ser e o nada tenha ela que forma tiver imuniza os não-existentes de todo trato imprevisto com qualquer entidade (existente ou não). Dito de outra forma, o não-existente não é um objeto da experiência, mas um personagem conceptual no sentido que ele está inteiramente tutelado por uma descrição e jamais à mercê das vicissitudes do que co-existe, já que não existe. Quando respondemos a um não-existente, não respondemos a um encontro ético, a uma experiência ética ou a uma situação ética – apenas respondemos a uma construção, à uma descrição, a objeto da razão (ou da ficção).

É certo que Cabrera pode conceber o outrinho, o único outro que importa nos casos de procriação, como sendo virtual, ou potencial, e, ainda assim real. Este passo o afastaria do caráter negativo da ontologia de sua ética em favor de uma ontologia plana entre os existentes de diferentes modos. Se ele, contudo, considera o outrinho um não-existente que pode vir a existir mas que moralmente não deve fazê-lo, ele está privilegiando o outro fora da experiência, imune a qualquer encontro, definido por uma descrição em detrimento dos demais outros que sim podem escapar de suas descrições e que zanzam pela sujeira da co-existência. Mas ele pode não se importar com isso, afinal a distinção entre experiência e razão (ou entre encontro e ficção) pode ser tomada como mais uma das muitas faces da distinção entre o ser que vale mais e o nada que vale menos e assim é algo a ser exorcizado. Se a distinção deve ser borrada, a procriação pode ser comparada ao heterocídio mesmo que o outro do heterocídio envolva um existente. O problema com os não-existentes, que só podem ser encontrados através de descrições, não desaparece facilmente: o outrinho da procriação é em um sentido importante incapaz de alterar o mesmo. Ou seja, não há uma situação futura ou um mundo possível em que o outrinho possa deixar de satisfazer aquilo que eu penso dele: “aquele que pode ou não nascer”. O outro, enquanto outro, hipostasia a alteridade, que é uma alteração com respeito ao mesmo. O outrinho, que é o único que deve ser respondido nos casos de procriação, é um personagem conceptual da narrativa da ética negativa. O outrinho é um outro em geral, ou ainda um esquema de existente (que satisfaz a uma descrição). A consequência disso é que não há resposta ao outro nos casos de procriação: os outros são imunizados por um outrinho conceptual e, como consequência, respondemos apenas a nós mesmos – o que quer dizer que não respondemos e apenas fazemos o que julgamos correto. (Haveria um sentido em que se poderia entender eticamente um diagnóstico de Wittgenstein na seção 158 das Investigações: se o que é correto é o que nos parece correto, não há correção. Um tal entendimento faria um deslocamento ruidoso no que Wittgenstein pretendia com essa observação; o deslocamento poderia ser entendido como uma rejeição de uma ética privada que, em meus termos, implica a ideia de que a ética requer co-existência precisamente porque requer resposta.) Mais uma vez Cabrera pode responder que, ao aderir ao procedimento de exorcizar qualquer maior valorização do existente em contraste com o não-existente, a diferença entre aqueles que eu encontro (e que são existentes) e aqueles que eu não posso encontrar é imaterial – não há diferença entre aquilo que eu penso e aquilo que eu encontro. Porém o problema com o não-existente ainda permanece; porque o não-existente não co-existe, há um sentido em que ele não é um outro. Dito de outra forma, pelo menos nos casos de procriação, a ética negativa não pode dizer que exercita uma resposta aos outros – ela parece ser guiada por princípios, pelos mesmos princípios, independentemente de qualquer alteração que qualquer outro possa promover. Talvez a ética negativa (nesses casos) não possa ser posta em termos de resposta ao outro já que privilegia um único outro cuja alteridade em relação às premissas da ética negativa é suspeita.

b) Os outros da metafísica e a metafísica dos outros
N'O sofista, Platão, ao tematizar o não-ser e como ele tem que de alguma maneira ser para ser outro, inaugura um pensamento da alteração: ele contrapõe, em perpendicular ao ser e ao não-ser, o mesmo e o outro. É o estrangeiro que pensa o não-ser – o nada é associado a um sotaque, a um estranhamento em relação aos existentes habituais (ou nativos, ou locais). O outro está permeado de mesmo como o mesmo está permeado de outro: este permear se expressa no sotaque, a mesma língua falada de um modo estranho, as mesmas palavras com fonemas alienígenas. O outrinho dos casos de heterogênese na ética negativa é o único outro – e é um outro sem sotaque, sem estranhamento, sem estrangeiridade. Se ele é uma personagem conceptual, é parte da paisagem de contemplada pela ética negativa: é um nada que não é ninguém; ou seja, não é senão o mesmo outro em todos os casos de procriação – um outro em geral. Um outro em geral não interrompe (não coloca uma questão que requer uma resposta, não faz uma demanda imprevista). A interrupção é uma categoria do que eu chamo de metafísica dos outros; nos termos do Excessos e Exceções, a metafísica dos outros com um lugar para a interrupção é uma ontologia sem cabimento tornada em metafísica – ela procura fazer caber aquilo que não tem cabimento sem dar-lhe um cabimento ou, como Anna Tsing uma vez recomendou, apresentar um relato do mundo com a melhor das capacidades disponíveis deixando espaço para outros relatos que não se tornem subservientes. A metafísica dos outros é, em um sentido importante, uma empreitada ética: trata-se de considerar o mundo a partir do ponto de vista da co-existência. E a co-existência pode começar com uma teoria da co-existência, mas ela se transforma rapidamente em um co-existencial, em uma categoria da co-existência. De um ponto de vista da metafísica dos outros, os outros não são pensados em geral, eles são pensados como interlocutores da metafísica – aquilo a que a metafísica responde em um encontro, em uma fricção de relatos, em uma interlocução. Trata-se dos outros como aqueles que requerem respostas, e trata-se de respostas como aquilo que requer outros para demandá-las: as respostas são a continuidade da interlocução, e não o seu ponto final. A resposta não é, assim, uma solução (não é a solução final), mas é antes um adiamento, um deslocamento ou uma insistência. (Vale comparar aqui esta perspectiva com a que Cabrera recomenda em sua lógica negativa: os argumentos não são o fim (encerramento) mas parte dos fins (propósitos) da interlocução. Que “nenhum dos cinco mil sentidos está livre de mal-entendidos” como escreveu Leminski – e eis de volta o tema do sotaque – é o ponto de partida, já que pensar é da matriz da alteração que é aquela do mesmo e do outro, que é onde aparece o não-ser do parricídio).

Posso dizer que enquanto eu privilegio a resposta aos outros não-antecipados, a ética negativa prefere considerar um outro em geral que não demanda nada de específico, mas faz uma demanda geral pela não-existência. Essa diferença faz uma grande diferença entre os casos de procriação e os casos de heterocídio já que não se mata o outro em geral. (É certo que não se procria o outro em geral, mas na consideração da ética negativa, aparece sempre e apenas o outrinho que já não intervêm senão com a descrição associada aos casos de procriação.) Do ponto de vista da ética negativa, no entanto, qualquer consideração específica acerca dos outros existentes em casos de procriação é não-ética (é psicológica, sociológica ou antropológica de acordo com as caracterizações que Cabrera oferece). Ou seja, não apenas a ética não se coloca em termos de resposta mas responder é não-ético. A razão parece ser a seguinte: deve-se, moralmente, desconsiderar os co-existentes no caso em que eles são imorais de acordo com minhas convicções e que meu curso de ação é movido por aquilo que eu tomo como moralmente adequado. E aqui parece que estamos próximos de uma metafísica do mesmo, onde tudo pode ser respondido de uma vez por todas, considerando esquemas gerais nos quais todo existente e não-existente devem caber. Em contraste, a ética que se desprende de uma metafísica dos outros não imuniza nenhum outro – nem nos casos de procriação e nem nos casos de heterocídio. Imunizar os outros – exorcizar a co-existência – é dar um passo em direção ao mesmo. E talvez o eixo da ética (daquela que se conecta a uma metafísica dos outros) seja antes esse entre o mesmo e o outro e não aquele entre o existente e o não-existente.

Mas, Cabrera poderia dizer, não podemos compactuar com a imoralidade. E, no entanto, é precisamente isso que torna a moral premente e difícil: ela convive na imoralidade, ela é cercada de inabilitações e ela é também uma resposta às impossibilidades. O diagnóstico que faz a ética negativa é precisamente esse: somos jogados na imoralidade por decidirmos seguir existindo e é dessa imoralidade (do usurpador) que se apresenta nossa situação moral. A moralidade em um ambiente moral é fácil; mais que isso, ela não é mais do que a aplicação de um conjunto de regras morais, formais ou materiais. Em um contexto de imoralidades que leve em conta o contexto, a moral não é sobre responder da melhor maneira possível (e não é sobre salvar sua pele ou sua persona moral, já que isso se faz apenas quando o contexto de imoralidades não é levado em conta). A moral se torna uma questão de metafísica (dos outros) quando ela não pode ser guiada por um procedimento algorítmico independente dos outros que constituem a co-existência. Quando a consequência de nossas ações é a sobrevivência (a usurpação), já não podemos mais alcançar a redenção ética, e é depois da redenção ética que a ética começa a ter lugar. Se a ética está na resposta, ela está na reação de um mesmo a um outro – ela está na resposta ao não-usual, ao sem cabimento, ao estranho. Uma ética da resposta é uma ética do outro – que se instaura porque há mais do que o mesmo (a moral do mesmo está sempre já antecipada e pode ser absoluta, estéril e tautológica para usar os termos que Whitehead queria exorcizar de sua metafísica). Segue-se que há um dilema moral sem solução final e com demanda de resposta em alguns casos, por exemplo, em que podemos ser sinceros apenas se somos desleais e vice-versa; mas também em alguns casos, por exemplo, em que o outro nos pede algo em conflito com o que pede um outro outro. Já agora tenho a impressão de que temos pontos de partida (morais) muito diferentes: Cabrera parte da falta de valor do que existe (e co-existe) e eu quero partir do sobrevalor do outro sobre o mesmo, mesmo quando o outro está em um contexto de imoralidades. Porém há um elemento comum: o ser ele mesmo não é um valor; é justamente porque o existente precisa sair de si que a ética, o avesso da mera satisfação, envolve o nada. A existência é um peso – e alguns dos seus kilos são de imoralidade – e não um valor. Este elemento comum gera a metafísica dos outros, já que a co-existência é do que é feita a existência e seu peso. Este elemento comum também gera a doutrina da ética negativa acerca da procriação: não ter parte na imposição do peso da existência à ninguém. No segundo caso, contudo, há uma redenção do peso da existência no ato moral ilibado que imuniza os outros se eles são imorais. Meu ponto de partida é que é da imoralidade irredimível que a ética emerge; ou seja, daquilo que os outros demandam, mesmo que eles sejam imorais já que eles carregam de outra forma o peso de hipostasiar a existência. Se pensamos assim não estamos impondo o peso da co-existência com a imoralidade aos novos existentes pois aceitar a co-existência não é o mesmo que deixá-la como ela está – agir moralmente é promover justiça, mesmo que em situações irremediavelmente injustas. Que alguém esteja na co-existência e responda a ela é o que pode ensejar uma alteração; o não-existente, por outro lado, não apenas não demanda como um outro como também não responde.

c) A ética é sempre do dia seguinte
Se tivermos direito a este ponto de vista que imuniza qualquer consideração acerca da co-existência e se pauta apenas por um único outrinho determinado por uma descrição e se aceitarmos a imoralidade da procriação em geral, quem procria comete uma imoralidade em qualquer caso já que o vício aqui não é apenas prima facie mas independente de qualquer circunstância. Ainda assim, os casos de procriação têm um dia seguinte. E em um dia seguinte há demandas e respostas, há ética; há ética no assassino preso, no manipulador declarado, no mentiroso condenado. O dia seguinte muda um tanto as coisas porque o outrinho passa a ser um existente, e assim se evade das descrições que eram tudo o que o caracterizavam. Uma pergunta que parece importar é como agir com o outrinho uma vez que ele é fruto de uma imoralidade (todos os existentes somos). É certo que não se trata aqui de salvar a persona ética do procriador, uma vez que há um outr(inh)o a ser respondido. Dito de outra forma, o cenário é outro quando se consumou a heterogênese que a abstenção da procriação pretende evitar. Não podemos mais tratar portanto de colocar o outrinho em um véu de imunidade e não responder a ele – ele já é um outro existente. De fato, uma vez que o desenrolar de uma heterogênese – ética ou não – começa, as demandas da ética retomam seu lugar. A interlocução de demandas e respostas é sem fim (sem encerramento) uma vez que o peso da existência é também o peso da moralidade mesclado no peso da imoralidade. Procriadores que não respondem ao outrinho agora existente e são imunes a ele parecem portanto agindo imoralmente do ponto de vista da ética dos outros (a ética da resposta que se conecta com a metafísica dos outros) quando de qualquer ponto de vista (negativo) sobre a ética.

Isso nos remeteria ao tema da heterossexualidade, já que é nela que repousa o ato imoral da procriação. (Notando que o aborto não é uma opção na ética negativa de Cabrera já que se aproxima do heterocídio. De fato, é justamente o outrinho antes da procriação, entendido como o completo não-existente, que interessa à ética negativa – e é talvez justamente por ele ser um completo não-existente que não se trata de uma ética da resposta aos outros.) É na prática heterossexual – e no intercurso – que paira a imoralidade da procriação. Cabrera recomenda então ou a) a castidade, ou b) a moderação sóbria, ou c) tomar todas as precauções para “evitar a gravidez; inclusive manter relações apenas com mulheres que estão deveras convictas de não quererem procriar (existem muitas). Como Cabrera escreve, apenas a) pode ser quase que completamente segura em evitar a procriação. Seja como for, essa postura confere ao intercurso heterossexual um caráter bastante sui generis de ser o lócus mesmo da conexão entre o nada e a imoralidade. Parece um gesto crucial que traz em si a maior das temeridades e que portanto é o mais precário elo entre a imoralidade do ser e o refúgio do nada. De minha parte – deixando de lado as suspeitas acerca da instância que imuniza as demandas dos outros em favor de um não-existente – penso que a heterogênese tem muitas camadas e é um processo denso de moralidades (em um contexto, como os demais, de imoralidade). Em todo caso, são muitos os cúmplices das práticas heterossexuais; e considerá-las imorais, outra vez, não pode implicar em não se engajar em tais práticas para salvar sua persona moral. A recomendação mais adequada, portanto, seria d) combater as tais práticas heterossexuais onde quer que elas apareçam, na minha vida pessoal ou em qualquer outra instância. Esta seria a postura coerente com uma atenção ao outrinho que, como vimos, é um outro-em-geral, um não-existente. Porém aqui também aparece a sombra do dia seguinte: o que fazer com quem resiste a esta luta? O que fazer com os heterosedutores de toda natureza e, é claro, também com aqueles que se engajam voluntariamente em promover empreendimentos de heterogênese? Uma resposta é, de novo, imunizarmo-nos contra eles e prosseguir na cruzada. Minha resposta é, de novo, oferecer uma resposta a eles – e uma resposta, que não é uma solução final pré-fabricada, é uma invenção.

Is there a monadological interruption?

I started my talk to the Leibnizians in the ULB last November saying that I was after another coupling of phenomenology and monadology, not like the one Husserl did in the 5th Cartesian mediation which was somehow prompted by former student Mancke and his Leibnizian inclinations. My coupling is one that would bring together not Husserl and Leibniz but rather Levinas and Whitehead. I then proceeded to present the problem with monadology in general: it has no room for genuine interruption, the monad is satisfaction-centered, an aesthetic-driven entity, as Shaviro puts in the end of his "Self-enjoyment and concern", in The Universe of Things. The issue is, in my terms, is there a monadological way out? Or rather, in a somewhat longer format, is there a process philosophy that both keeps the tenets of a (neo-)monadology while making room a genuine hospitality that involves being able to be interrupted as an existent (as a monad, as an actual unit of agency that is separated in its solitude from the content of what is acted)? The issue is maybe whether there could be a real present time in monadology - or whether units of agency are tied once and for all to an agenda, to a sense of importance, to a set of beliefs and desires, to a will to imprint the world with its subjectivity. The question for me, at the time, was whether the transition from a monadology in a closure regime to a monadology in a capture regime (in the apt phrases used by Deleuze in Le Pli) can ever be completed.

I have recently felt a bit despaired of this idea. I have been wondering whether the idea of monadology is flexible enough to accommodate what I called a monadology of fragments (as a monadology of hospitality) in my Being Up For Grabs. In the framework of monadology, units of agency are archés that are crucially interdependent. Their individuation (hypostasis) is tied to societies and to networks (or to worlds). There is not enough independence in each existent to be able to be interrupted by another - there is no room for what I called the solitude of the agent. Plus, interdependence is already too much of an ontology - whatever interrupts a monad (a monadological or neo-monadological monad, to be clear) is already inside it, it's already in its web of interconnections and interdependence. In other words, I lost faith in the ability of monadologies to accommodate genuine external relations.
Having said that, there is still room for a new process philosophy approach. Maybe that could give rise to a post-monadology that would somehow accomplish the plan of a new coupling between the conception of interdependent individual existants on the one hand and that of a self hospitable enough to be open to interruptions.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Broad anti-necessitarianism as a condition for process philosophy

This is the draft of the text that evolved from my participation in the ABC+ Process Philosophy conference in Liverpool last year:


1. Introduction: Process, Agency and Contingency
Process philosophy is a general name for metaphysical outlooks that focus away from what is stable and take what appears fixed to be what primarily demand explanation. Therefore, the main characters of a process philosophy plot are more likely to be interactions than substances, becomings than the underlying structures of being, constituted movements than constituted things. In the twentieth century, process philosophy was championed by Alfred Whitehead's philosophy of the organism, by Etienne Souriau's claims concerning how existents continuously bring about existence, by Henri Bergson's attention to durations, and by Gilbert Simondon's ideas of meta-stability and of individuals explained away by processes of individuation.1 More recently, process philosophy has been placed in the foreground of several philosophical discussions. It has received increasing political attention in the context of the growing concern about the non-human in ecological debates where Isabelle Stengers has championed the idea of a cosmopolitics influenced by Whitehead's ideas and Bruno Latour has been developing an actant ontology that owes much to Whitehead, Souriau and Simondon.2 It has received analytic treatment, especially due to Johanna Seibt's process mereology of activities and dynamics.3 It has also propelled the so called speculative turn, on the one hand influencing object-oriented philosophy and a renewed interest in the philosophy of nature while on the other hand being taken as a symptom of the age of the correlate that Meillassoux diagnosed and criticized in philosophy since Kant.4

It is difficult consider briefly all variations of process philosophy – and the metaphysical developments they have prompted. There are important tensions between, say, Whitehead's agent-based metaphysics and Simondon's concerns about how agents (among other individuals) become individualized or between Seibt's emphasis on dynamics and Latour's networks formed and maintained by an indefinite and ever-changing number of actants. Process philosophies are possibly held together more by family resemblance than by shared common features. Still some general features of process approaches follow from their general drive against claims that stability is the metaphysically prevalent and underlying feature of everything. Such claims often make novelty either hard to explain or dismissed as a mere appearance. In contrast, process approaches give ontological priority to change or to movement in the form of events or becomings, activities or unrepeatable particulars and can understand novelty either as a feature of whatever exists or as a consequence of another processual feature that is itself susceptible to novelty. In any case, novelty matters for process philosophy for it pictures the universe as something in the making.

An important general feature of process philosophy has to do with necessity and contingency. In order to maintain that reality is ultimately processual, one should not postulate an over-arching single necessity. A necessity of this kind could take the form, for example, of a set of laws, or an ultimate substantive reality, or a ruling supreme monarch. It turns the universe into a “barren tautological absolute” in the expressive phrase of Whitehead.5 If every process, in the form of change, movement or activity, is explained away in terms of an over-arching necessity, the ultimate nature of reality cannot be processual. Process philosophy requires genuine contingency in the world, if it is to take novelty as an ontological feature. In Being Up For Grabs, I argued that contingency follows from the absence of a single, over-arching necessity – if there is more than one necessity, genuine contingency follows suit.6 The relation of opposition between contingency and necessity, I argued, is that the former is the plural of the latter. There I explored how contingency could be understood as being the centerpiece of a metaphysical image while not being the ultimate feature of everything. The contrast is with an image that makes contingency into a over-arching principle independent of anything else. Meillassoux's speculative materialism posits a principle of facticity that transcends everything and is itself necessary – not even the advent of God could change the (necessarily) contingent nature of anything concrete. As a consequence, contingency becomes some sort of barren tautological absolute where no novelty could ever have any consequence.7 In contrast, I propose in the book a process philosophical approach to contingency (tied together to views of contingency based on the insufficiency of reason and on the timing of events). Contingency is presented as central but not as the building block of everything and no determining principle overrides novelty. The image of contingency that emerges from the book is one where agency is crucial. In the present work I contend that agency is not only indispensable to understand contingency but also the shaping force of any genuine process philosophy that avoids collapsing into the postulation of an over-arching necessity.

2. The Process of Reality: Peirce and Anti-necessitarianism
Charles Sanders Peirce endeavored to counter what he calls necessitarianism – the claim that “the state of things existing at any time, together with some immutable laws, completely determine the state of things in every other time”.8 Necessitarianism is understood therefore as the thesis that everything follows by necessity from what was set once and for all given some immutable laws. In other words, necessitarianism is the view that reality was produced (by necessity) in one stroke. According to it, all that there is can be condensed in an arguably finite but certainly close to recursively enumerable set of laws and initial states that is in important senses smaller than the world that, in its turn, depends on it. In the Laplacean formulation of the 19th century that Peirce addresses, “the instantaneous state of a system of particles” is defined by a number that “remains the same at all times” and therefore “the intrinsic complexity of the system is the same at all times”.9 In any form, necessitarianism is the view that there is no genuine diversity, novelty or surprise and Peirce endeavors to oppose it. This is what he responds to his opponent:


[y]ou think all the arbitrary specifications of the universe were introduced in one dose, in the beginning, if there was a beginning, and the variety and complication of nature has always been just as much as it is now. But I, for my part, think that the diversification, the specification, has been continuously taking place.10


He then proceeds to provide reasons to his claim which include the advantages of postulating “pure spontaneity of life as a character of the universe”11 that explains both the irregularities and the uniformity of nature. He believes it can be inferred from “broad and ubiquitous facts” that “there is probably in nature some agencyby which the complexity and diversity of things can be increased”.12 He contends that facing the irregularity and the diversity of the universe, the necessitarian could either deny that they are genuine and hope to show that ultimately everything is regular and explainable in terms of a single over-arching necessity or, failing that, to posit unexplainable irregular elements. The latter resource is what drove the Epicurists to posit clinamina, those swerves in the determined and necessary orbit of any atom so that novelty (and diversity) can take place. Peirce, as many before him including Leibniz in his controversy with Pierre Bayle,13 understands as a drawback of the system the postulation of unexplainable events like a random swerve. In contrast, his hypothesis according to which variety comes from spontaneity can provide enough explanation for both regularities and novelties, for both order and exception.

Peirce's opposition to necessitarianism and his effort to spell out an alternative reflects the kind of atmosphere where the need for process philosophy is felt. Equally, for example, when John Dewey argues that human experience has to be conceived in terms akin to a nature which is wistful and pathetic, turbulent and passionate or Jean Wahl holds that there is always some sort of conflict in the concrete the gates for a process-based approach of reality are open.14 The drive towards process philosophy can arise from the idea that reality doesn't spring from a single plan (and its unexplainable exceptions).15 This is why Peirce's remarks on necessity seem like a good starting point. In fact, necessitarianism can be formulated in a more general way in terms of a word inherited from the Greeks, arché, which are present in words like hierarchy, like archaic, and like archeology and points both to command and to commencement. Peirce formulated necessitarianism in terms of a fixed set of laws and a class of initial conditions. We can understand it in broader terms as the claim that there is only one arché – one command and one commencement – and therefore everything else is the effect of that ultimately fixed structure. Such a single arché entails what can be labelled broad necessitarianism, even if it is taken to be behind activities, becomings, changes, movements or transformation. In fact, even if such an arché is something like Meillassoux's principle of facticity – that makes everything necessarily contingent – it entails necessitarianism if nothing is beyond its scope. Or rather, any single arché entails necessitarianism if nothing is beyond its scope and is not ungoverned; that is, nothing escapes the arché with a reason to do so because if a swerve is not a sheer irregularity it is a product of another command and a new commencement. Peirce pointed out that necessitarianism can accommodate sheer irregularity – through doctrines such as Epicurist's clinamina. In fact, it can further accommodate a world of nothing but sheer irregularities or random moves like Meillassoux's hyper-chaos where everything is (necessarily) contingent because such world has no more than one arché, even though it ensures no more than an an-arché. There is no genuine, irreducible process if everything is under a single, over-arching principle; any true process philosophy requires broad anti-necessitarianism – the claim that broad necessitarianism is false. Indeed I contend that anti-necessitarianism is at least a necessary condition for a bona fide process philosophy.

If this is so, broad anti-necessitarianism sheds light into how process approaches orient themselves in some metaphysical debates. Although not all variety of process philosophy position themselves in the same manner, there are general tendencies that follow from the rejection of broad necessitarianism. A first debate concerns priority, in the sense Schaffer and others have recently understood in the discussion about priority monism and its alternatives.16 Priority monism holds that everything concrete is a part of a whole which logically pre-exists its parts – it doesn't claim that only the whole exists but rather that it is prior to anything else (its parts). Priority pluralism, on the other hand, takes concrete parts to be (logically) prior and the whole to be a matter of composition driven necessarily by the prior parts. While the latter posit something akin to atoms, the former would be comfortable with an all-encompassing cosmos. Process philosophy, conceived as broad anti-necessitarianism, couples poorly with priority monism as it postulates an over-arching cosmos prior to any other commencement (or command) but it doesn't agree very well either with priority pluralism as the command (and the commencement) of the atoms is also set once and for all. In fact, a process philosophy would best embrace priority nihilism, the rejection of both priority monism and priority pluralism. According to priority nihilism, there is no ultimate parts that rule what is concrete and no ultimate whole that shape things either – there is no priority as nothing in the universe is established in just one dose. Priority nihilism is a way to make sure no prior wholes or parts rule everything else through a priority that ensures determination.

A second debate where process philosophy position can be illuminated by its commitment to (broad) anti-necessitarianism concerns the necessary existence of everything. Timothy Williamson has coined the term necessitism for the thesis that everything is necessarily something – and called contingentism its denial.17 These are modal theses about ontology in the sense of whether what exists exist necessarily. If necessitism is right, whatever exists somehow has to be something, although not necessarily the same thing – a glass could be an elephant, or another glass or a dream but necessarily something. In terms of possible worlds, something present in one possible world is present in all of them; trans-world identity is a consequence of necessitism and nothing exists in just one world. Now, because the debate around necessitism is about (modal) ontology, it has no obvious implications for the one on necessitarianism – and therefore there could be a necessitist (non-necessitarian) process philosophy. However, necessitism is best construed as committed to an ontology where what exists arises from a single (logical) stroke; no other entity or interaction interferes in that unique commencement (and command). To be sure, process philosophy could accept the thesis that some things necessarily exists or that all things are capable to exist necessarily but these are already contingentist claims. Just like with priority nihilism, I contend that a genuine process philosophy is best coupled with some variety of contingentism. Moreover, a process philosophy reflection on both issues suggest that, further from broad anti-necessitarianism, process philosophy is committed to the claim that no arché goes unchallenged in all instances (by another arché). In other words, it suggests that no necessity runs within its (concrete) scope without interference of other necessities for the establishment itself of a specific scope for each necessity is a stroke of an over-arching arché. Further, it is not enough that there are (unexplainable) irregularities for that would entail Epicurean necessitarianism; rather, process philosophy requires some sort of multiplicity of archés.

Priority nihilism, contingentism and wide-spread contingency, together with a multiplicity of archés, suggest a similarity with Leibniz. In fact, Leibniz is often mentioned as a source for some (neo-monadological) versions of process philosophy, and this link will be explored below. But Leibniz maintains that his units of agency (his monads) are multiple, compose a world while being interdependent18 and are wordly in the (contingentist) sense that nothing exists in more than one possible world. (Leibniz has that Adam is a sinner and in a possible world where there is no original sin, there is no Adam.19) Leibniz, nevertheless, fails short of holding a process philosophy in an illuminating way. Although he holds that everything is contingent – because there are infinitely many equally possible worlds and no necessity but a wise decision from God selected one possible world among all – he also holds that there is a determination since God chose a world as a whole and did it in one dose, once and for all. Leibniz's system (and his controversies with Arnaud and Bayle20) illustrates how contingency is sometimes understood as indetermination – which is distinct from what takes place in one among many possible worlds. Leibniz insists that while everything in the actual world is contingent because there other equally possible worlds that happened not to be chosen to become actual, what happens is determined by the choice of world once made. Therefore he holds no necessitarianism as there is no necessity behind what is determined and further posits many archés that act spontaneously even though their choices are already determined. However, Leibniz is not a broad anti-necessitarian in the sense that there is an over-arching decision that made the actual world as it is from one stroke – once and for all. The present time where actual things happen is a follow-up from the time of choice when God wisely chose one among infinite many possible worlds and that time of choice itself somehow had to follow a time of contemplation where all the possible worlds were constituted by necessary rules of compossibility. This way these possible worlds are constituted are described by Leibniz through the image of the Palas palace with an infinite number of rooms each of them being like a possible world and each of them containing only elements that stick together (that are, as a matter of reason, compossible). The appeal to these three consecutive times – albeit the first is not itself a time if God needed no time to contemplate all possible worlds – distances Leibniz from broad anti-necessitarianism as there is an over-arching decision taken in a time that precedes the present time.21 The precedence of a stroke of a creator leaving no room for a present time interference from another arché makes Leibniz a broad necessitarian and therefore not a process philosopher. Interestingly, though, he holds both that archés are multiple and that (non-broad) necessitarianism is false.

3. Agency in the World
Process philosophy, understood as committed to broad anti-necessitarianism, is to a great extent about agency. It is therefore important to have a characterization of it but I will limit myself to three rough features. First, it is connected to arché: an agency is a commencement and a command in contrast with anything that follows a determination, a rule or whatever has been previously established. In that sense, exercises in agency are acts that are both non-determined and determining. Second, it requires no intentionality: an unintended act can equally well be an instance of agency if it commences or commands something – spontaneity doesn't have to be intended. Third, agency springs from contingency and generates something that is akin to a determination; further what is there to be determined has to be itself contingent. The logical space of agency is that of something being determined, being chosen, being rules, being founded or being originated. To be sure, what is determined is not necessarily necessary – for it could be otherwise. In fact, what determines, while determining, is never under a necessity because if it were necessary it would not be itself determining anything – not commencing anything – but merely being determined to determine.

Now, if process philosophy is committed to broad anti-necessitarianism, it is committed to the existence of agency in the world (and, in fact, to the existence of more than one agency). If there is no agency in the world – or no agency among concrete things – there is no process philosophy: images of the world without agency lead to broad necessitarianism and, indeed often to (strict) necessitarianism. If everything is determined by necessity there is no agency; but also if everything is (necessarily) contingent there is no room for agency and broad necessitarianism is the case. A principle that assures contingency everywhere doesn't prevent God from coming to exist, but does prevent any (other) arché to come to exist. Meillassoux's principle of facticity, like Leibniz's system as discussed above, falls short of broad anti-necessitarianism even if it is not (strictly) necessitarian. In both cases, determination by necessity and ensured ubiquity of contingency, the concrete is not genuinely productive and nothing in it commands or commences.

On the other hand, the presence of agency in the world can take many formats. To begin with, it can be ubiquitous or exceptional. Peirce's suggestion against necessitarianism was to spread spontaneity throughout the universe so that both stability and irregularities could be explained through them. Process philosophy doesn't have to assume it is ubiquitous, but it often finds agency beyond the human and not only in Gods. Apart from ubiquity, the presence of agency in the world raises the issue of whether or not there are individuated agents. As a consequence, process philosophies can either postulate agents or conceive agency as independent from individuals. There could be agencies responsible for processes that are themselves what give rise to individuals. Individuals are then conceived as the result of an agency or of an interplay of agencies that are themselves not arising from individual agents. The idea of agency without agents is present in several process-oriented claims: Gilbert Simondon's idea that individuals respond to continuous processes of individuation, Deleuze and Guattari's conception of agencements as separated from singularities that prompted Foucault's diagnosis that the individual is a product of power, Karen Barad's agential realism that posits agency inside individuals in their intra-actions (as opposed to inter-actions).22 In all those cases, individuals are not themselves archés. A universe without agency is different from a universe without agents; in the former nothing has the power to affect the course of things, in the latter no individual thing can do it although the course of things can be continuously changed by forces, drives, movements or intra-actions and those changes can include the generation of individuals. In both cases, no agent, qua agent, affect the course of things or promote further diversification or specification in the universe. However, a universe with agency (with or without agents) is a universe that is not made in one stroke but is can be revamped and reconfigured to its utmost structure.

In contrast with a world with agent-less agency, we can envisage a world made by independent, ready-made agents that concentrate all the agency in the world. These individual agent affect the course of things are endowed with agency from the beginning and are individuals before any agency can take place. If we compare views of the universe with views of human society, the image of individual agents can be paired with that of a contractualist society of individuals who build social institutions by making deals. In both cases, the priority in agency is in the individual who independently carries on an action and every collective chance is an effect of the intervention of one or more agents. In this image, it is hard to imagine genuine relations and genuine becomings as both this things boil down to an individual character who promote it; individuation is itself independent of any relation and becoming. Such image is close to that postulated by Graham Harman in his object-oriented ontology where independently individuated objects are the ultimate constituents of the world through their capacity to crack deals, to engage in network and to make room for further, equally independently individuated, objects.23 Harman himself contrasts his view with that of authors like Simondon, Bergson and Stengers on the one hand and Whitehead and Latour on the other by saying he has no room for becomings like the former nor for relations like the latter.24 The concentration of agency in independent individual agents place agents themselves mostly somewhere immune to process, and therefore substantially out of reach to the archés that shape the course of things.

A departure from the idea of individuated agents is provided by process philosophers of a more monadological persuasion – such as Whitehead and Latour. Their position can be seen as in between that of agent-less agents and that of a world of individual agents. Here agents are not individuated through a substratum but rather occupy a place among the various interdependent agents around them. Whitehead holds that agents – his actual entities – are both primary and dependent on the other actual entities on which they act. It is agency that makes an agent what it is while agents are the primitive basic elements of the ontology – Whitehead's ontological principle has that no actual entities, no reason. The individual is therefore a product of power but with the proviso that power itself stems from other individuals. This monadological (or neo-monadological) position shares with Leibniz the postulation of units of action that are all different from each other and all part of the general configuration of things. Like in Leibniz, these units are defined in terms of each other and their mutual compossibility is crucial for their identity. Unlike in Leibniz, no global selection of a series of units of action takes place in one stroke and therefore nothing is determined once and for all – these (neo-)monadologies are process philosophies as they break with the broad necessitarianism held by Leibniz. Each unit of action is driven in its agency by the co-existing other units and none of them has no effect in any other. Monadological process philosophy posits agency as tied to individuals, yet relations between them make individuals what they are to an extent where there is no priority either of the individuals or of the inter-relational network connecting all of them. In Whitehead, actual entities are not substances and do not remain beyond the completion of an act of prehension – which can be roughly understood in terms of perception.25 Further, in Latour there are an indefinite number of monads as the unity of agency can only be counted with respect to a test of resistance – the distinction between a monad and a network of them is relative to the circumstance of their subsisting that is always dependent on a measurement of forces.26 The distinction between agent-driven and agent-free agency is therefore somehow blurred as individuals can become non-substantial, temporary and indefinite. The difference between the two ways of understanding agency seems dim if we take into account that the individuals in a monadological approach to agency are fully embedded in a process that continuously constitute them. The two approaches split only in the sense that the inder-dependent agents approach is monadological in its roots – agency comes from units that are somehow already individuated.

I have presented four positions concerning agency in the universe. They can be ordered from the one which posits no agency to the one that posits fully independent units as sources of agency – respectively the first and third positions that appeared above. In that sequence of positions, the first one finds no room for agency in the universe and embraces a necessitarianism at least in the broad sense. The second posits agency that changes the course of things in the universe but no agents as units that can be deemed as its source. The third one posits those agents but they are interdependent, relational and non-substantial – they mingle with the exercises of agency that continuously take place and give rise to new units of action. Finally, the last position ascribes agency to independent agents whose individuation are immune to the interference of any agency – they are individuated through something like a substratum that is not affected by what happens to them. The ordered four positions can be viewed on a table:

1
No agency
2
Agency without agents
3.
Agency with interdependent agents
4
Agency with independent agents
Necessitarianism (or broad necessitarianism)
Anti-necessitarianism (and broad anti-necessitarianism)
Anti-necessitarianism (and broad anti-necessitarianism)
Anti-necessitarianism

Process philosophy
Process philosophy


The second and the third position afford process philosophies; maybe there is a continuum of positions between 2 and 3. Both are broad anti-necessitarian, in contrast with 1. Position 4 is anti-necessitarian and perhaps even broadly anti-necessitarian but it is perhaps a less fertile soil for process philosophy as the individuation of units of agency is immune to every arché. In fact, Harman himself when contrasting his object-oriented ontology with positions like Whitehead's and Simondon's stresses that there is room for process in those positions but not in his.27 In any case, positions 2 and 3 gather the conditions for process philosophies as they posit agency in the universe and understand that no unit of agency is constituted independently from the effects of the others.

4. Conclusion: Process and Immunization
If process philosophy springs from the rejection of broad necessitarianism, it entails that the universe is never established once and for all – it is in this sense incomplete and therefore falls short of a “barren tautological absolute”. Therefore further action can always contribute to the shape of things – what is concrete in the universe is open to further agency, to the effects of other commencements (and other commandments) as nothing is established once and for all. The concrete is therefore what is always subject to the effect of other archés – therefore it is up for grabs. Different process philosophies put forward accounts of how this different agencies relate and how they affect what is concrete. Process philosophy has to do with a universe conceived as open to new commencements. Considering the 4 above positions about the presence of agency and agents in the universe, we appreciate how commencements affect other sources of commencement. Position 2 rejects units of agency and therefore agency itself depends on the processes within the universe. Position 3 posit units but they are interdependent and respond to the processes within the universe in their individuation. Position 4, in contrast, considers agents immune to the processes – as a consequence, there is a limitation in scope and therefore in intensity of what is open to be affected by new commencements. Process-approaches committed to position 4 have less space for process because less is up for grabs. The scope for process is therefore bound by individuals that are immune to agency. Apart from requiring broad anti-necessitarianism, process approaches need what is up for grabs. If there is something concrete that is immune to agency, process is bound. The advantages of positions 2 and 3 over 4 (and 1) is that they posit nothing that is immune to agency. Immunity contrasts with process because it contrasts with what can be affected, it contrasts with dependency; what is immune is independent – just like the whole for priority monism or the atoms for priority pluralism. However the amount of immune elements among concreta is a matter of degree; this is why there are ontological assumptions that are make more room to process approaches. When something is immune to further command (or to further commencement), there is a necessity (or an arché) that reigns unchallenged, even if only in its restricted scope.28 To be sure, one can put together a process approach to some areas of what is concrete – for example, to human mind or human societies as does approaches that understand humans as exceptions to a necessitarian rule29 – and a (broad) necessitarian approach somewhere else. In that case, what is immune to further command is precisely what determines the limits of process.

To conclude, few words about the limits of agency. To propose a process philosophy is to propose an image of a process that constitutes the universe by introducing (more than one) commencement and commandment. That image could privilege the search for satisfactory novel increments to the complexity of the world, or the thrive for adequate response to demands or the aggregation of existing elements or forces in new constructs. In any case, the image provides an account of the constituting processes by presenting some limitations embedded in them – we could invoke here a motto: definire est eliminare. Whitehead sets up to address this limitations considering that process cannot be understood unless a framework is provided and that involves, for example, a non-processual notion of spatial relations and a notion of potentiality.30 Importantly, however, these defining limitations of process are not conceived as determining an area of what is concrete in which there is an immunity to any process. These limitations purport to do no more than explain how process takes place positing a structure to them. These explaining structures can be metaphysically very different from each other and they are best if they not only postulate genuine processes reinventing the universe beyond any initial setting but also show that they imply no area of what is concrete that is immune to such reinvention. If broad anti-necessitarianism is a necessary condition for process philosophy, minimizing concrete immunity is perhaps its aim. In any case, it is at its best when it explains genuine novelty without preventing it. In other words, when it gives an account of process that does not subsume the effects of all the archés to come.