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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

No agency
(or no relevant agency)
Agency without agents
Inter-dependent agents
Independent agents
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.

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