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Monday, 17 December 2018

Levinas, Kierkegaard, OOO and indexicalism

Finally back to Deictic Absolutes. This is a piece that contrasts indexicalism and the metaphysics of the others on the one hand to monadology and OOO on the other. It is about transparency and what escapes any system. I compare the contrast to that between Kiekegaard and Levinas. The bit goes like this:

To take interruption metaphysically seriously is also to take metaphysics to be driven by the capacity of what is outdoors to interfere. Metaphysics is itself vulnerable to interruption. In any case, the interrupted nexus of each actual entity by the Other is what makes each agent's agenda hostage to what is exterior. The interruption coming from the Other drives the agent away from an agenda. If monadological agents are driven towards satisfaction, agents in a metaphysics of the others are subject to interruption. The metaphysics of the others can be described as an interruption in the metaphysics of subjectivity – an interruption in transparence but also in the agenda formed by the nexus that is attached to each subject. Agents can no longer trigger process by being oriented by their nexus in the company of the others but this solidarity is broken by a demand that might not become intelligible within one's nexus. The Other makes subjectivity capable of substitution – a subject can give up being oneself for another. Subjectivity becomes a space of possible replacement where everything can take a different direction, including identity. If monadological co-existence depends on interdependence, a metaphysics of the others depends on the capacity to interrupt identity itself. In fact, I understand the metaphysics of the others as a result of Levinas interrupting Whitehead.

The metaphysics of the others is also an interruption in transparency. Levinas' appeal to infinity brings transcendence to the scope of co-existence. Infinity cannot be transparent, it cannot be available in a glance. Harman's object-oriented philosophy objects and revise in Whiteheadean and Latourian process philosophy by positing real objects that are withdrawn from what is manifested in qualities and relations. Objects transcend their interactions and appearances. They host a singularity in themselves; real objects can withdraw into a singular realm alien to every interaction. Here we can compare the contrast between indexicalism and object-oriented ontology with the one between Levinas' singularity of the Other and Kierkegaard's singularity of the self. Kierkegaard posits a subject that is never fully manifested neither in any description of her relations nor in any of her interchanges with other subjects. There is something in me, according to Kierkegaard, that resists any system, a sui generis element that makes any neutral picture of what exists incomplete – what I am escapes any systematic approach. Levinas writes that what is the same is “essentiellement identification dans le divers, ou histoire, ou système.” He continues: “ce n'est pas moi qui me refuse au système, comme le pensait Kierkegaard, c'est l'Autre.”1 The Other is what escapes any effort to systematize; an ontology of the Other is impossible – there is no quadruple theory, no substantive account. The infinite in the other is part of what makes the other leave a trace on my image of the world – and make it incomplete. The Other brings in interruption – the metaphysics of the others is the interrupted nexus.

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