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Thursday, 28 September 2017

An amendment to the three narratives story

I made a first amendment to what I presented last Monday about the three concomitant narratives concerning the other. Instead of three narratives, I'm thinking in terms of two poles where representation lies in the borderline. The composer that performs a representation of the world is a composition and a fragment; the monadological narrative deals in compositions or fragments and brings about (instaure) fragmented compositions that can be interrupted. Composing enables interruption - it emerges from a tension between compositions and fragments. Compositions are fragments because they are incomplete and therefore make room for further composing. Composing is perceiving, the ethical endeavor of attending to one's agenda and being interrupted by it. Perception is therefore dual, it aims at building a nexus and it attends to interruptions.

Hence, perception is the meeting point between monadology and what it inscribes, a hauntology. Monadology features the agency of each unit - autonomy - and the heteronomy that follows from being affected by the other monads' agency. Hauntology requires an interruption (heteronomy) and an autonomous decision afterwards. Monadology features spontaneity and contingency whereas hauntology features interruption and decision. Perception (and representation) happens between the two, it is a double articulation geared towards justice and placed within interiorities.


Monday, 25 September 2017

A metafísica paradoxal dos outros

Hand-out of my presentation in Anarchai today:

A metafísica paradoxal dos outros
Hilan Bensusan

Metafísica e os outros: o mundo externo, a fundamentação de alguma coisa em outra, as relações de dependência e inter-dependência, a interação, a transcendência, a heteronomia.
Existir e co-existir: aquilo que existe tem lugar entre outros que existem.
Anna Tsing e a dupla tarefa: a) oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade com as melhores habilidades disponíveis e b) deixar espaço para outros – e outros relatos – que são parte da realidade.
Totalidade e transcendência: satisfazer a tarefa a) apenas produz uma totalidade fechada (e consistente nela mesma), satisfazer b) apenas é recusar uma abordagem englobante em nome da transcendência dos outros (e dos outros relatos).
Diaphonía e paradoxo: A diaphonía exerce uma pressão desde fora sobre a espontaneidade (a soberania) de qualquer abordagem. A tarefa paradoxal: oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade tal que genuínos outros (e genuínas outras abordagens da realidade) sejam possíveis.
A metafísica paradoxal de Cogburn: A tarefa da metafísica é oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade tal que a metafísica seja impossível.
Transcendência, teoria e prática: Levinas condena a totalidade alcançada pela representação como sendo de um indigno egoísmo; a representação é interrompida pelo desejo metafísico pelo absolutamente outro. Tal desejo é externo à representação que promove a totalidade. Não é a representação que transcende. A totalidade tem que ser restringida, limitada, denunciada.
Correlacionismo: A totalidade é incapaz de transcendência, estamos presos ou em uma correlação entre nosso conhecimento e o mundo ou entre nosso pensamento e o mundo. Para Meillassoux, sair da era do correlato é ser capaz de uma abordagem maximamente geral que não esteja presa à correlação.
Duas metafísicas: a) O esforço por apresentar uma representação total do mundo que o deixe exposto sem qualquer delimitação desde fora ou transcendente (metafísika) e b) O esforço por apresentar uma representação do que está fora, do que é exterior e transcende (métafísica).
A metafísica paradoxal reformulada: A tarefa da metafísika é oferecer uma abordagem maximamente geral da realidade tal que a métafísica seja impossível.
Ontologia orientada à objetos (Harman): Oferecer uma totalidade que inclua a inesgotabilidade de cada objeto, uma representação total da impossibilidade de representar o que transcende (o objeto real constitutivo de cada objeto e em permanente retirada).
A totalidade e os outros – o problema do neutro: Levinas entende a transcendência do absolutamente outro desde a primeira pessoa, desde uma assimetria que ela mesma rejeita qualquer totalidade. Harman entende o inesgotável no outro em terceira pessoa, como inesgotável de qualquer objeto (neutro). A totalidade abriga a transcendência apenas ao preço da neutralidade.
Monadologias (Leibniz, Tarde, Whitehead, Latour): As monadologias são metafísicas da multiplicidade de unidades de ação (mais ou menos claramente individuados) interdependentes que atuam uns os outros (ou sobre o domínio dos outros). Nas monadologias sempre há outros.
Monadologia e co-existência: Numa metafísica monadológica, tudo o que existe é produto de uma interação entre agentes – não há ordem alguma sem uma sociedade que a balize e a mantenha.
Husserl pede ajuda à monadologia: Para introduzir intersubjetividade em sua abordagem da fenomenologia do ego na quinta Méditation Cartesienne, Husserl introduz uma monadologia em que as unidades de ação (de intencionalidade) são alter-egos, representados como outros eus e concebidos à imagem e semelhança do que há de transcendental no meu ego.
O outro como interrupção: Do ponto de vista de primeira pessoa – um ponto de vista que se torna possível pela fenomenologia – a transcendência é neutralizada pelo alter-ego de Husserl e pelo objeto real de Harman. Levinas rejeita essa neutralização: o outro não é um alter-ego, é (parte do) que eu não sou.
Isolamento: Uma abordagem de primeira pessoa, comum a Descartes, Husserl e Levinas, parte do isolamento do ego, um isolamento que precede a transcendência.
Três isolamentos:
i. Cartesiano: “qualquer indivíduo da res cogitans ou da res extensa não requer nenhum outro indivíduo de seu tipo para existir”(Whitehead, P&R, p. 144).
ii. Levinasiano: cada existente tem uma pessoalidade e carrega uma hipóstase de sua existência (até o Deus de Spinoza é pessoal no sentido de carregar o onus de sua existência).
iii. Garciano: cada coisa é uma coisa porque está isolada, mesmo que não seja nem uma unidade e nem tenha uma identidade – seu isolamento a separa de qualquer predicado ou relação.
Monadologia e isolamento: É a partir do isolamento do existente que pode haver transcendência; numa monadologia o agente depende dos demais para ser o que é (para agir como age). Não vale o isolamento cartesiano e nem mesmo o garciano – ainda que talvez possamos entender que vale o isolamento levinasiano.
A monadologia interrompida: Como fazer para que a transcendência do outro seja parte da realidade sem que o outro seja neutralizado? Como conciliar a interdependência dos agentes em uma metafísika monadológica e a transcendência dos outros?
Tipos de outro: Para Levinas, o absolutamente outro da transcendência reside nos outros humanos. A separação de uma pessoa é garantida pela satisfação de suas carências e dá a possibilidade de uma representação soberana do mundo (que é indigna). A satisfação das carências é fornecida pelos outros não-humanos, a representação não é interrompida senão pela diaphonía.
Modos de existência: Ao invés de tipos, modos. Aquilo que existe pode existir de muitos modos. A diferença entre tipos e modos faz a diferença entre a filosofia da abstração de Platão e a de Aristóteles e a diferença entre pluralismo ontológico e pluralismo existencial em Souriau.
Uma monadologia de fragmentos? Em Being Up For Grabs e em Diáspora da Agência, uma monadologia é proposta em que cada unidade de ação existe em três modos de existência: um fragmento de uma composição alheia, uma composição ela mesma e um compositor.
Interdependência vs. transcendência: em uma monadologia, há que haver totalidade e neutralização; além disso, a passividade do fragmento e da composição não é ainda transcendência tomada por uma decisão de um existente isolado. A monadologia entende os outros sob o registro da interdependência.
Três narrativas concomitantes dos outros: Para pensar a possibilidade da transcendência e da totalidade, do absolutamente outro e da monadologia, talvez os três modos de existência tenham que estar em três narrativas concomitantes. As três narrativas do outro tornam possível três ângulos em que o ser e o outro se conectam.
1. Monadologia de composições: os outros aparecem compondo a realidade em relações de interdependência onde não há isolamento.
2. Fenomenologia dos compositores: os outros aparecem representados a partir de um ego soberano em um exercício de espontaneidade (o ego soberano pode ser uma comunidade associada a uma linguagem pública de conceitos).
3. Hauntologia dos fragmentos: os outros interrompem a representação e a composição da realidade por uma incompletude irremediável dos fragmentos que os deixam assombrados pelos outros desde o vão mesmo entre cada existente e sua existência na qual está isolado.
Metafísica paradoxal? O outro constitui a mim e aos outros e, ao mesmo tempo, é externo a mim e me transcende.
Totalidade e über-realidade: Kit Fine (“Tense and Reality”) introduz o conceito de über-realidade, o produto da conjunção de todas as realidades perspectivadas – em termos de realidades do passado e do presente mas também em termos de realidades de primeira e de terceira pessoas. Cada uma das perspectivas não oferece uma totalidade e é consistente. A conjunção de todas elas é a totalidade inconsistente – a totalidade é uma aglomeração, um entulho, um amontoado.
Contraste com OOO: Não há termo neutro e nem sequer isolamento garciano em todas as narrativas. Porém a totalidade se torna estereoscópica: vista de mais de um modo.

Transcendence and paradoxical totalities

Levinas' endeavor in Totalité et Infini is to consider the first-person encounter with the absolute Other, not as a representation (or of fruition) but as an exercise of transcendence. His exercise in transcendence inaugurates a métaphysics where the ethical demand plays a crucial role. However, transcendence itself is not thematized and, as a consequence, does not compose a totality. Levinas aims to avoid totality for a plurality of reasons (to be examined …). As a consequence, there can be no maximally general account of how things are. In fact, Levinas rejects the possibility of a maximally general and consistent account of how things are such that transcendence is possible. There can be no consistent account of any other as the other is not a neutralized alter-ego – another me that turns me into something impersonal - but precisely what I am not. No consistent account is possible because a consistent account would turn the other into something immanent and void it of any transcendence. Consistency is a road towards turning the other into an object of ontological knowledge. Levinas understands that nothing but a negative account can be given of the other; no maximally general account of everything is therefore possible. There is no totality, no metaphysiks for reasons akin to those of Heidegger when attempting to move away from the totalizing Ge-Stell (in the Bremen lectures). In a sense, Levinas replies to Kant is that a transcendence is possible but no general (consistent) account of it can be provided. (In that sense, he remains in the era of the correlate and is perhaps a weak correlationist.)

Speculative realism – specially in the cases of Meillassoux's speculative move towards facticity and of Harman's speculative move from the experience of withdrawal to real objects – attempts to remedy this predicament by introducing speculation to enable one to move from the experience of transcendence to a general account of how things are such that transcendence is possible. This is perhaps the gist of the movement – an attempt to go beyond the limits of the study of transcendence provided by Levinas (and the limits of Heidegger's proposal of a turn (Kehre) away from metaphysiks in a sense that would also entail no totality).

Jon Cogburn has diagnosed that the metaphysical endeavor that results from these speculative efforts are paradoxical. He understands that to move beyond correlationism – and not only to forget it – is to take into consideration arguments such as those of Kant (and Berkeley, Fichte, Russell) according to which transcendending the correlation is impossible and, as a consequence, no totality cannot be reached. The issue is that if a totality includes transcendence, it will not transcend as totality will therefore be taken as being itself inside the correlation. No transcendence can reach a totality beyond the correlation because, according to these arguments, we cannot leave the correlation. Such is the predicament of Levinas: transcendence cannot be encompassed in a (consistent) totality.

Cogburn then introduces the idea of a paradoxico-metaphysics by saying that

“[…] the task of metaphysics is to give a maximally general account of what reality is like such that metaphysics is impossible. If the project sounds paradoxical, that is because it is. But if reality is paradoxical, such is our fate” Garcian Meditations, 8-9.

The paradox emerges from the two uses of the word metaphysics in the italicized sentence. One can in fact believe the word is being used in different meanings. In fact, we can try to rewrite the sentence as:

the task of metaphysiks is to give a maximally general account of what reality is like such that métaphysics is impossible.

However, this only shows how totality encompasses transcendence – and métaphysics cannot be irrelevant to metaphysiks. If transcendence is impossible, a maximally general account cannot be given once it would be at most an immanent maximally general account. In other words, it will be confined to the correlation and not maximal enough – not reaching totality. This is the paradox in totality. A paradoxico-metaphysics would respond to it by saying that it is only when totality is thought as devoid of paradox that we generate the stalemate. One way to do paradocico-metaphysics is to allow for totality itself to involve transcendence and, as a consequence, as being paradoxical. To posit an inconsistent totality is to enable transcendence neither to collapse in immanence (metaphysiks) or to entail no totality (métaphysics).

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Object-oriented vacuous actuality

Harman's Immaterialism sets out to contrast his object-oriented approach to social and historical explanation to what is loosely labeled "new materialism" and to actor-network theory in particular. After a quick presentation of his ontology of objects stressing the speculative move from objects of human knowledge endowed with a withdrawn element that eludes every sensorial contact to an image of everything as objects enjoying a secret in-itself dimension and a quicker presentation of the adversaries of the object-oriented approach, Harman illustrates the strengths of finding objects behind events with a historical narrative of the Dutch VOC. Following a provocation from Leibniz, for whom it would be outrageous to treat the Dutch East India Company as a real substance, Harman sets out to present the history of the company as the history of an object - that supposedly would explain more than accounts that rather undermine it in terms of its components (fleets, trips, employees etc.) or overmining it in terms of events (expeditions, conquests, alliances etc.).

The narrative is persuasive in showing how middle-sized objects like the VOC have to be taken as real protagonists capable of symbioses where a different objects are brought to alliances that involve not only its sensual qualities but also the real, withdrawn and elusive element behind the perceptually available. In a symbiosis, an objects bets in another. This is is fairly illustrated. However Harman is less convincing when it comes precisely to show how his approach fares better than Latour's ANT (Action-Network Theory) when it comes to explain features of the history of VOC. To be sure, it is not enough to say that we need to postulate individuated entities like the VOC - Latour would have networks of actants that are individual enough when they pass successive tests of resistance. Latour's individuals, nevertheless, are always up for grabs, always at the mercy of tests of resistance - and they have nothing concealed but only their successive display of actions. Still, networks that can be broken up into actants at any moment, are individuated enough. There is one important point that distinguish Harman's objects from Latour's networks: potentiality. Harman is adamant in saying that the VOC is to be understood as an object with dispositions - for instance, conquered the Spice Island in potentia even before its attack on Macassar in 1656. It is clear that capacities and abilities could be part of what a real object is and the link between real objects and real qualities is indeed conceived by Harman to be composed by those features, by those "causal powers". But ANT postulates no such thing as potentialities. In "Irréductions", around 1.5.1 Latour analyses potentialities in terms of the engagement of several other individuals and not in terms of an internal feature. He writes (in 1.5.1): "With potency injustice also begins, because apart from a happy few - princes, principles, origins, bankers, and directors other entelechies, that is, all the remainder, become details, consequences, applications, followers, servants, agents - in short, the rank and file.". Now, it is precisely the engagements of these other individuals that would explain, for instance, how the Spice Islands were in the hands of the VOC since the early 1620s: a network of actants composed by local alliances, more powerful fleets and Macassar residents that would make the conquest of Macassar less than a priority. It is unclear what precisely an object-oriented approach could offer that is better than the positing of networks together with an account of how the name "VOC" related to different networks in different times yet retaining enough of the network to go through several tests of resistance. Not only ANT would need no appeal to internal potentialities, but it would explicitly dismiss them.

Perhaps the gist of the difference is precisely in the withdrawn element in objects that ANT cannot contemplate: Harman's real objects elude any contact with other objects. Real objects are dangerously close to what Whitehead labeled 'vacuous actuality' - precisely what brings his position close to that of Hegelians as them too reject vacuous actualities such as things-in-themselves. Vacuous actualities affect nothing. I guess there are two different ways to view the withdrawn element in something. Consider Levinas conception that the absolute other is elusive to representation and ultimately to the exercise of my spontaneity. Here, the absolute other is withdrawn and yet capable of affecting me - of hurting my otherwise unlimited freedom and sovereignty. Levinas wants to make sure that the absolute other is not unnoticed - or rather, that it is not unnoticeable while it can be systematically unnoticed. It affects by resisting. The same can perhaps be said about the Kantian noumena: it is the resistance of the thing in the objects; it brings about the transcendental distinction. The other way of thinking about the withdrawn element is that it has no effect whatsoever: they are present and yet inert, not affecting anything. In this case, they are vacuous actualities. But if real objects are vacuous actualities, it is no surprise that they can make no (explanatory) difference in the explanation of the VOC. They would at most make an object-oriented account hostage to the explanations provided by an ANT history.


Monday, 4 September 2017

Perhaps a phenomenology + a monadology + a hauntology

Getting acquainted with Salanskis reading of Levinas and thinking of how, in perception, there are always traces of the still others in perceiving the others (language brings in the images of the masters when we look at anything but also every mediation is a trace in perception - think of the notion of importance in Whitehead's Modes of Thought, for instance) I've been elaborating on the account of three modes of existence I gave on Being Up For Grabs. There, each unit (which was a monad) was at the same time a composition, a fragment and a composer. There they relate to the others in a monadology. But this strikes me now as only part of the story. There is a monadology but on top of it and at the same time there is a phenomenology and a hauntology associated to the interiority of each unit. The paradoxico-metaphysics of these units is the (incoherent) juxtaposition of these three arrangements of units in each of their mode of existence. In each mode they enjoy a connection with the others, but a metaphysics of the others includes these three modes and the three arrangements. An ontology of the whole picture that provides a global view of all of them form an inconsistent totality.

Husserl himself felt like he needed a monadology to complement his phenomenology in the fifth meditation. Levinas provides an account of how the freedom of one's spontaneity needs to be hurt by the traces of the others - of how phenomenology should rather be juxtaposed with a hauntology where freedom is (morally) tainted. Further, Levinas himself makes room for a (monadological) dependence on what cannot contest one's freedom but could resist it. He embraces a bifurcation concerning what is my nourishment (nourriture) and what is the other that interrupts and is not something I depend on. Hence, for Levinas, I can go phenomenological concerning what is monadologically associated with me but I also find the absolute other whose hauntology can only command an ethical independent dependency. If we drop the bifurcation, we hint towards the co-existence of two modes of existence: I need nourishment for my chez-moi, but the absolute other can come from anywhere. To be fair, as far as the encounter is concerned, the image of a paradoxico-metaphysics of the others composed by arrangements of modes through a phenomenology plus a monadology plus a hauntology makes perhaps as much violence as the bifurcation. The difference is that it leaves a ground (hauntology) just for the traces of absolute others that are met.

Hence, in Being Up For Grabs I have proposed a monadology of fragments where each subjectivity exists at the same time in three modes. The three modes account for their being up for grabs because they are composed by others, they are fragments in other compositions and because they compose with what is provided by others. The three modes are constitutive of what there is. Now I want to explore these three modes further both as modes of existence of subjectivity and as modes of being up for grabs. It is apparent how these three modes relate to each other: they are incoherent, their blending together lies in paradox. Yet, each unit is at the same time
1) fractured and interrupted by all others – they being up for grabs makes them available like hosts for every other that can interfere in their interior life,
2) dependent on the others – they cannot be maintained or keep their defining relations to other units unless they are helped by all the other units (the monadological meta-stability),
3) sovereign to make use of all others found in the way (la indigne liberté) – their interiority is related to what they find around themselves with their freedom to engage with the others at their will.
It follows three arrangements: a hauntology (1), a monadology (2) and a phenomenology (3).