Indexicalism is out:
The book symposium took place two weeks ago with talks by Sofya Gevorkyan/Carlos Segovia, Paul Livingston, Gerson Brea, Steven Shaviro, Chris RayAlexander, Janina Moninska, Germán Prosperi, Gabriela Lafetá, Andrea Vidal, Elzahrã Osman, Graham Harman, Charles Johns, Jon Cogburn, Otavio Maciel, Aha Else, JP Caron, Michel Weber and John Bova.
My very preliminary response to some of their talks about the book follows. (Texts will appear in a special issue of Cosmos & History soon).
RESPONSES: ON SAYING PARADOXICAL THINGS
First of all, I want to thank everyone for their contributions. You all created a network of discussions that made the book worth publishing. Thanks.
Response to Shaviro:
To engage in a general account of how things are is to risk paradox. Totality, with its different figures including the impersonal one that enables a symmetrical view from nowhere of anything, is looming about and it could make everything available to an exercise of unconstrained, unsituated freedom to reveal. Yet this is the game of philosophy – and, in this sense, it is a language and, in some related, is a literary gender in which fictioning is possible. Franz Rosenzweig, for what can be considered to be good Levinasian reasons, would refrain from it and recommend that distance is kept: totalities would make anything personal impersonal and renders anyone's life into a sameness as everything is an equal part of a global picture. Levinas would still insist on going to the danger zone with Aristotle's Protrepticus brought in by Livingston: if you should do philosophy, you should do philosophy, and if you should not do philosophy, then you should do philosophy. He would insist that one can speak of what one cannot speak going against both the 7th section of Wittgenstein's Tractatus and Derrida's injunction against the possibility of saying what Levinas himself wanted to say in philosophy. As Shaviro writes, both of them are wrong, you cannot remain silent where you cannot speak or whereof you cannot speak Greek – the language of philosophy. Levinas would rather force the language to the unspoken, bring in the foreign accent and stretch it even at the cost of paradox. As a foreign to the land who is feeling the urge to speak up what cannot be spoken, and in a way that is not unlike fictioning, more than what gets said (a contradiction), what matters is very saying of the paradox (contradire). That is, that one is obliged to dwell in contradictions in order to say what is urgent and impossible.
The root of paradox in Levinas is home ground – it is stated at the beginning of Totality and Infinity that the aim is to bring Rosenzweig's criticism of philosophy inside philosophy. This is the stated aim of the project and its main formulation is the paradox of freedom: through my freedom, I discover my responsibilities and then I'm no longer free. Philosophy is the domain of freedom – nothing apart from my own impossibilities would stop me from getting anywhere. There is no passivity and receptivity itself could be taken as a strategic passivity where I listen to something in order to gain better access to what was previously concealed. Yet, it is in the exercise of this freedom that I encounter responsibility, something that cannot either come independently from my freedom because it is exercised within it or come as a consequence of free deliberation. Responsibilities are there from the beginning, like what lies before any grounds, but cannot come to the fore but in the milieu provided by freedom. As a consequence, when I'm engaging in the philosophical endeavor of providing a general account of how things are – say, indexicalism – I am in the very milieu where my responsibilities will become apparent. When they become, my engagement with philosophy and its craving for totality will fade away and criticism of metaphysics will replace what previously was just an exercise in metaphysics. But criticism emerges from freedom and therefore I cannot renounce doing what I cannot do without the act of engaging in the paradox. The extent of the infinite responsibilities lying in my own personal, situated position reveals something about how things are through the exercise of freedom, that is of seeking the general account. To use Tractarian images again, one could throw the ladder away, but at the cost of not being able to reach the top again. In other words, what matters is not what is achieved (which is paradox) but actually, the saying of the contadiction (contredire), reaching there in order to appreciate the situatedness that one is tied to even when trying to climb up the ladder to see it all. The paradox doesn't dissolve after it is stated because it is said repeatedly in different ways – compare with fictioning – and one doesn't find a domain where contradiction lies; contradiction is what I end up saying when I try to engage philosophically with the others that compel me. My freedom leads me to my situatedness not because I'm free to be situated or not, but because it was there from the very metaphysical desire for the others – the indexicalist picture.
This is a picture that is faithful to Levinas' gesture even though it is perhaps not what he had recommended. It is, in the lovely (Derridian) phrase of Shaviro, a Levinasianism without reserve. Indexicalism – with the help of Whitehead, perspectivism and externalist accounts of indexicals and other ideas – extends the gesture beyond the limits of the anthropic. In fact, as Shaviro says, I claim that there could be no principled way to distinguish what can contest me and what can merely refuse my attempt at fruition – to use a dichotomy that appears mostly in Totality and Infinity. To say indexicalism extends Levinas, or that it performs a (broken, interrupted) speculative flight taking Levinas as a takeoff lane is one way of putting it which I sometimes indulge. But perhaps the very idea of a Levinasianism without reserve is that the gesture cannot be restricted to the antropic. If the restriction applies, two things follow. First, the anthropic realm becomes a king of realm of paradox and contradiction is bound to the philosophy that encounters humans – it is only towards the human other that I have incumbencies and therefore the paradox emerges when my general view concerns them. Second, I have to bear in mind that the other I'm facing is human – and that makes me engage with a neutral space of general, and consistent, contact between me and the other. The neutral is a figure of the symmetry that Levinas rightly abhorres for it replaces my encounter with the other with a two-lane image that can be quickly viewed from nowhere. The first point circumscribes the domains where the paradox incides, and we can end up simply with an anthropic dialethea. The second point is made by Livingston after Derrida in his contribution and is brilliant. It recalls Judith Butler's remark in Giving an Account of Oneself where she says that one has to have the concept of 'face' in order to recognize the (human) other. Butler's remark relies on concepts and on recognition and it can be countered by insisting that there is no knowledge of the other through the face – but simply the hearing of a call, of an appeal. But part of her gesture is captured by the idea that the human is neutral and neutrality is a step towards symmetry; we can say that all humans are my incumbencies and as I am a human… The paradox not only comes too quickly but also is circumvented and the rest of the world – towards which fruition supposedly takes place – is immune from it.
Indexicalism applies notions such as proximity – and substitution, recurrence, obsession – to any other and posits that they gear towards the outside that is always around in perception. Shaviro has this great image of ophthalmological proximity to claim that proximity is not only an-archaic but also disturbing, overwhelming and often anathema to communication. He then finds it inappropriate that perception taken as hospitality and built from the indexical paradoxical and situated metaphysics is compared to a conversation. His reasons are clear: a conversation seems to be too much of a mutually cooperative, somehow symmetrical – may be neutral , communicative and consensual endeavor. In proximity what one feels often is the weirdness, the eeriness and the hostility with which incumbencies could be met. Conversations are perhaps too hospitable or too converging to be part of what Levinas had in mind when he thought of obsession for the other or the wound that makes me vulnerable. Even among humans, a conversation can be impossible – as Lafetá points out, the other could be too impaired, fragile or hurt to be part of a conversation. In any case, incumbency doesn't disappear when a conversation fails. Proximity, Shaviro points out, involves sometimes suffocating compulsion and cumplicity could be thoroughly unwanted. I agree with all that. At this point I could recoil from my appeal to conversations in the book. Surely I would rephrase some of the intensity I placed in them. I would not fully recoil only because I believe that there is more to conversations than conversations. In other words, when two people stop talking to each other, or a wounded animal becomes too ferocious to be dealt in closeness, there is still a responsibility, obsession and capacity to respond. A newly acquired foe can become unable to talk to me, or be unable to carry on exchanging words, but still, I continue to respond. I do it because the intricate interplay of demands, urges and substitution wouldn't just fade away – as proximity is not easily exorcised. That interplay could be called an (extended) conversation. And this is perhaps still a good way to describe some features of perception. In this case, even while renouncing to speak of what cannot be spoken, a response could possibly be given. That fictioning is possible when philosophy fails – or becomes too paradoxical – is perhaps also a move in a broad, open and ongoing conversation.
Response to Gevorkyan and Segovia:
Without offering not even a glimpse into how to best interpret or translate Anaximander's sentence, I find it interesting to go back to that conjunction of injustice and the course of things. On the face of it, it could sound like something about the vertiginous notion of what deserves (and what doesn't). One would in fact feel like there is a reason to engage with general questions concerning how things are because that could be a way to determine what is deserved – and what is not. In the more common, philosophical and general reading of Anaximander, the urge for justice is seen as spread everywhere and to find answers about it one needs to go into the arrangements between what comes into being and what perishes. Now, it is not said there that there is an order to that at all, if there is, it can be intrinsically opaque. Further, it can be an order that is eroded and reshaped at each new event and nothing is safe from deviation, from interruption or from nonmonotonic addition. Still, the issue of injustice (and merit) persists because it involves a quest that cannot be dealt with once and for all. If a foray of any kind into the way of things is prompted by Anaximander's tie between the process of things and justice, it can find out that the others encountered are never transparent from any point of view attained and, yet, they are inextricably from the issues raised by the quest for justice. If we agree that Anaximander's sentence provides a guide map to what philosophy became from Ionia to Jena, we can see already the roots of the indexicalist paradox. There is a project for this foray that aims at surveying what there is and make it transparent; it is, in fact, a variety of projects to this effect and they became somehow dominant even though hardly consensual. If this survey intends to make everything transparent, it could discover that justice lies in the opacity of the other. Further, it may discover that opacity and situatedness ought to be a constitutive ingredient of what there is if justice is to be part of it altogether. Indexicalism – and the metaphysics of the others – is faithful to Anaximander's sentence in the sense that it is a way of reading it. Likewise, it is a reading of Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ.
Indexicalism holds, nonetheless, that this faithfulness to Anaximander as a guide map is not to be found everywhere. In particular, it is not to be found in an approach that can be called, to use Levinas' phrase, ontologism – the claim that only being is real. That approach – which is at odds with Plato's Sophist five great types including four indexical ones besides being – makes hardly any room for justice (or injustice, merit, deserving or whatever could be taken to appear as the main character in the plot of Anaximander's sentence). Ontologism is perhaps the shortest path to accomplish the goal of a neutral, impersonal account of how things are – and in that sense, it is committed to substantivism, the image of the world where positions and deixis play no role. According to the metaphysics of the others – that takes otherness seriously as a deixis – justice can only be made through situated action, especially because its demands cannot be replaced by substantive descriptions once and for all. One way or another, and in different instances, in the long road from Ionia to Jena and beyond, the last part of Anaximander's sentence was downplayed or straightforwardly dismissed in the name of a robust ontology of substantives – and often of substances. This gesture had a great impact on how we displaced incumbencies from freedom, concerns from facts and justice from knowledge. It is also why philosophy can often seem like the realm of the impersonal, of the non-situated, of the indifferent. Expurgating the last part of Anaximander's sentence paved the way for this special dispensation that the quest for finding things out and make use of what is found to entertain responsibilities.
Gevorkyan and Segovia place Indexicalism, the book, between the subtractive and the chiastic logical architecture. For them, I think it moves away from an aporetic style towards something that could be found, I believe, in the sentence of Anaximander. This integration within a split enables an opening towards transversality. Attending to two poles is not a commitment to symmetry but rather an acceptance of imbalance. In bringing a concern with the other as an other to a landscape familiar to process philosophy, the book intended indeed to bring forth a kind of agenda that would be oblivious to any separation between metaphysical concerns and how we deal with what is around that would dangerously live proximity, responsibility and care out of the picture. If there is a separation – and it is perhaps a paradoxical one – it is one that is often reinstituted for it is not a no-trespassing fence. To think through the chiasm in which philosophy has to be placed in order to take the others seriously is a way to stretch a vocabulary and begin to move away from the language of universality. If I understand them well, the chiasm is what ensures contradiction is to be preferred to indifference.
Response to Cogburn:
If dialetheas are understood as places where the paradox lies – or even as parts of reality where contradiction entails no quodlibet, no triviality – then the issue appears as to whether they are substantive or indexical. One can arguably aim to fix contradiction – once they cannot be eliminated – to a restricted zone with marked borders where there is a domain on which contradictions are true. To be sure, as Levinas himself shows time and again and I said above, we cannot afford not to venture into these paradoxical areas and if we do so we can at most try to walk carefully. But perhaps dialetheas are not substantive, but rather an indexical effect, as Livingston argues in his paper: it is the essential indexical that leads to most (if not all) paradoxes. If V is a suitable domain for a logic of demonstratives, closure entails transcendence and if we grant existence, we can either deny closure or assume what Cogburn calls the Bova/Livingston line according to which there is a tension between consistent plurality and inconsistent totality. Indexicalism goes for the latter; in fact, it is through exploring closure that one finds transcendence as I said before, and once transcendence is found, the metaphysical endeavor that affirms closure is criticized – the closure ladder can be then thrown away, again, but only at the cost of not reaching the place where closure can be criticized through transcendence. It seems, at first sight at least, that if there is a Bova/Livingston dialethea it is deictic and depends on a context added to the character of the demonstrative – it is a situated paradox. In other words, it is through looking for symmetrical relations around that one finds asymmetrical positions that inform a situated metaphysics of the other. One can project this asymmetry in V but in doing so, one engages in the paradoxical (impossible and perhaps urgent) task of formulating a transcendent closure.
We can think further about indexical dialetheas. From the perspective of deictic absolutes, there ought to be outside to what there is – that outside is part of what there is. This outside is therefore inside what there is and outside it: for each tentative class of what there is, there is an outside that is both outside and inside. The contradiction follows from an indexical position of what is outside a given class; for each closure, there is a corresponding transcendence and therefore a correspondence dialethea. Livingston's argument that most or any paradox have an (essential) indexical kernel would then perhaps entail that dialethea are themselves indexical items. It is only from the point of view of a class that there is an outside – like it is only through pointing that this sentence while stating that it is false that the paradox arises. True contradictions are an effect of having indexicals like 'this' or 'outside' just like paradox is an effect of having an indexical general account of how things are.
Cogburn points at an interesting epistemological occurrence of the closure-transcendence tension. It addresses the issues that appear in chapter 3 of Indexicalism where an account of perception as a challenging exercise in hospitality is provided. Suppose V is the class of everything that could be conceptualizable this far by an agent (or a class of agents) to whom perception presents an outside. Davidson can be taken to recommend the idea that anything outside V – and indeed outside the reasons already known and assuming they coincide with what has been conceptualizable – is either already conceptual or makes no impact on knowledge. In that sense, he's siding with closure whereas McDowell, attempting to restore a proper domain for a tribunal of experience, urges for a transcendence, for what is beyond the currently conceptualizable. Perceptual experience is the outside to which Davidson denies any epistemological import. From an indexicalist point of view, it is not only that the outside can provide verdicts but also that it constantly provides new borders because perception is the very locus of transcendence. McDowell struggles to make sense of verdicts of experience in a way that they are neither too Davidsonian as verdicts are too conceptual nor too committed to the Given as non-conceptual deliverances of the senses. His current way out is to postulate verdicts as composed by Anschauungen which are less than full-blown concepts. These verdicts appear, in any case, as help from the world to exercise our spontaneity. From the point of view of the metaphysics of the others, the others with which perception makes contact does not provide verdict but rather incumbencies. That is, they appear as a limit to our spontaneous endeavor geared towards revealing what is perceived and otherwise constrained only by our own incapacities. This purely exterior ingredient in perception has to be positioned somewhere with respect to the relevant sensibilia – it is, if this expression makes any sense, indexically mediated. (It may not make sense due to its triviality from the indexicalist point of view according to which there is nothing that fails to be indexically mediated.) Notice that this impingement from the exterior – this outside – is neither an McDowellian Anschauung nor a form of non-conceptual content because it is not a content at all. With Whitehead, for the metaphysics of the others perception is a widespread constituent of the world because it follows from encountering something else, positioned as other. The outside in perception is both part of the landscape that makes perception possible within a deictic operation (therefore, akin to closure) and what transcends perception – and therefore transcends what has been conceptualized. This is reminiscent of Levinas' version of the ontological argument: the exterior imposes itself as such from within. It is at the same time a position in the deictic space with which I orient myself and something outside of it. This is why the other as great kind in Plato's Sophist is the subterraneous dynamics of any negation.
I have recently proposed that we can see the encounter with the Other as Levinas conceives it explicitly as something that precedes any attempt to extract the intelligibility of what surrounds us (this is in a paper called An-Arché, Xeinos, urihi a: The Primordial Other in a Cosmopolitical Forest). There is an often-unnoticed starting point which is something else before me, facing my sensibilia even before my sensibilia is engaged in its activity to perceive and know anything. I compare this pre-history with Heidegger's second beginning which is prior to the first – the first being that of sein = physis and the second that of seyn = Ereignis. Here, it is not Ereignis that precedes physis without grounding it, but it is the very encounter with the other that precedes without grounding any attempt to extract information from the other which has been met. Perception is encountering (with an outside) before it triggers a knowledge process. As such, it is haunted by an incumbency – and a transcendence – that limits the exercise of my spontaneity irrespective of my cognitive capabilities or deficiencies.
Response to Livingston:
Indexicalism inherits from Levinas both the taste for adventure that guides moving from an arguably safer criticism of philosophy to the attempt to be in its midst and the rejection of the idea that an attachment to neutrality is recommended in order to prevent sliding into paradox. That makes it go into philosophy preferring paradox to neutrality. This rejection of neutrality – and hence of a view from nowhere – guides the way totality, or the absence of it is then thought through. It is as if we could say: as a whole, reality is such that there is no whole. This is where the language of paradox and that of fictioning meet, as Shaviro points out. Livingston argues that there is no paradoxico-metaphysics and one should rather adopt a critical position towards the project of a complete description of things that would engage indexicalism as an item in its toolbox. This project – which is arguably part of the indexicalist project as I see it, one could be tempted to take an impossible measurement and say it is one half of it – is in a sense an effective follow-up to Rosenzweig's abstention from philosophy. Such abstention is taken in Levinas' bag when he ventures into philosophy – as I began to explore in my response to Shaviro. There is a neutrality element here, nonetheless, that is interesting to notice. In a sense, to refrain from paradox is a way neither to take sides concerning the two conflicting poles nor to bet in polemos itself. The first option is also a way to a sure way to avoid paradoxes and, in this case, would amount to either embrace philosophy in its tendencies towards the neutral, the impersonal and the unsituated image of things or rejecting it altogether. To be sure, criticism could take this two flavors – or mix them perhaps paradoxically: to refrain from taking sides by saying that this is a dangerous area or to take side with the thorough rejection of the philosophical endeavor as a commitment to a general view of things. Interestingly, there is an (indexicalist) paradox looming in the horizon for those who adopt the critical view: reject both sides but dismiss the side of philosophy in an emphatic way. I conjecture that this is a way to find a reverse paradox in a position that refrains from stretching indexicalism into a (general) account while rejecting general accounts in general for indexicalist reasons. This reverse paradox would be nonetheless would be committed to neutrality: indexicalism is a tool for criticism but it cannot go beyond that without tainting the ultimately desirable and perhaps unattainable attachment of the philosophical endeavor to neutrality.
Now, Livingston not only understands the gist of the indexicalist endeavor with its paradoxical consequences but also expands it in interesting ways. In particular, he explores the idea that deixis is the root of paradox. I don't quite know how far can we go in this indexical analysis of paradox, but Livingston suggests that notions such as outside and inside are crucial for the very statement of most paradoxes. (Further, one can explore the possibility that set theoretical approaches, once we realize there is a – maybe indexical – paradox with a set of all sets, ought to be approached from a deictic point of view; this is something I cannot but begin to think here but if it makes any sense, that would provide me a way to generalize the account of propositions I am developing somewhere else to encompass at least some of the mathematical propositions.) At any rate, the idea of a border can be viewed as potentially evoking indexicality. Tristan Garcia has crafted the notion of de-determination that picks up a thing from a realm of objects and predicates and provides a universe in which the thing's borders are the crucial ingredient – the line between that thing and all the rest. The procedure, as I write in the book, is similar to that of reference-fixing. The borders emerge from de-determination and individuate something with respect to them – while these borders are established, one can prove to be wrong about any substantive description of the thing without losing the contour that specifies it. It would be interesting to explore how much we can make explicit the deixis behind set-theoretical paradoxes with the help of the idea of de-determination in its indexical resonance.
Livingston, if I understand him rightly, recommends modal realism as a companion to indexicalism. I would resist that. Not because I dislike Lewis' attitude of considering actuality indexical – what makes this world actually is that we are in it – but rather because ultimately his concretism about possible world end up being not indexical enough. I maintain that reference-fixing is a procedure that targets what can be accessed from my actual position, through an explicit indexical, through a proper name or even through a description (as Kripke and Donnellan have shown). The price for Lewis' concretism (and modal realism) is to take every world as substantively different from each other – maybe we can say that indexicalism comes too late when then you want to say that the actual world is actual because that's chosen by our position. As a consequence, worlds are deemed independent from each other and their denizens are never identical. To be sure, this could work out as a way out of the seemingly difficult problem of trans-world identity. But I think Kripke is right in rejecting this (Leibnizian) path of having each possible world with its own and unique denizens – it is crucial for monadology to work, but this is one of the ways to see how indexicalism departs from monadology. On Kripke's take, I am me in every possible world which are accessed through the actual world where I am and are not to be thought of as foreign countries or distances you can observe from a telescope. It is from an actual referent in the actual world that other worlds are drawn and, accordingly, the trans-world identity problem doesn't arise. The center is always in the actual world – which is indexically chosen. To be sure, the path from I in w to I in w' can be different from that from I in w' to I in w but this is where indexicalism leads you, to no all-encompassing totality with a view from nowhere. All the other possible worlds are others and, again, I am not the other world's other. It seems to me that this is the way to avoid both a balanced reciprocity and an ultimately descriptivist – substantivist – account of the denizens in different worlds. In this area, indexicalism also entails the abandonment of content as Fregean Gedanke that can be contemplated from anywhere. (Incidentally, I also realized, thanks to a renewed attention to Perry's texts with my co-author Guilherme da Silva that de re thought is also insufficient to accommodate thorough indexicality.)
Response to Lafetá:
Do the others have an interiority? Lafetá's question opens the way to a paradox she identifies at the kernel of the indexicalist project and can be a way to summarize its paradoxico-metaphysics. The answer is indeed ambiguous; to a first related question, do I get to know the other's interioriority, the answer is no while to a second related question, is there more than one interiority?, the answer is yes. Maybe we can say that the others have interiorities but they are not fully present to me. The different interiorities are in a diachrony that makes them accessible to me in general only through the (perhaps fictioning) effort of philosophy. Yet, philosophy cannot make a substantive predication about the other's interiority – and neither can encountering the others render interiorities transparent. The other is a continual exteriority leaving traces on me. Meeting the other leaves me not only interrupted but also in perplexity: I can make myself fully available and yet not know how to respond for the exteriority of the other pierces through what there is in my interiority and suffocate me. It is not quite that I can give what is in me but rather that I should provide something I cannot own for the other.
This is what happens in the percpetual event – what is perceived is not non-conceptualizable, but rather it forces me out of any existing conceptual scheme, it pieces through my conceptual capacities and press me away from my interior space. This pressure is there even if I am also pushed, for reasons of justice with other perceived others, to make it fit at least partialy into a concept. While I can have an account of perception while engaged in philosophy – that it takes place in a situation akin to that of hospitality, for example – each event of perception torns me between the conceptual scheme that results from the imperfect attempts to do justice to what has been perceived – an attempt always urgent and impossible – and an interiority that does not make itself open to me. I believe this can be done only if the account of perception satisfies Tsing's injunction of leaving space in the ground – where perception takes place – for something that eludes the narrative provided by the account. This is why the dynamics of hospitality – always haunted by hostility – can illuminate my encounter with the others in perception.
Response to Harman:
Indexicalism brings to a broadly speculative realist arena a combination of granular process philosophy – that is, where there is an assumption of discrete items like Whitehead's actual entities – a Levinasian concern with the transcending other and Amerindian perspectivism that privileges deixis over fixed identities. Process philosophy of the granular kind – that tends to build on monadologies – understand process in terms of units of agency that interact with each other, make compositions or alliances or conflict with each other. These units are autonomous and understood in terms of their effects. When coupled with a concern for the absolute others, they are no longer fully moved by their agency and their agenda and become endowed with a freedom that encapsulates infinite responsibilities. Those responsibilities, however, can only be comprehended from a first-person point of view – as I cannot impute an infinite responsibility to anyone else's freedom. This combination of Whitehead – and his resolutely immanent account of entities in a network of perceptions – with Levinas – and the transcendence of the other which is placed beyond the possibility of full perception – leads to an explosive paradox. We can tame it by appealing to deixis – and the Low Amazon tendency understands predicates in terms of relative positions. (The combination is made more acceptable when we bring in the idea of a paradoxico-metaphysics.)
To assume, with Amerindian perspectivism, that predicates are deictic and reality is incorrigibly conditioned by positions is not a lapse into relativism. To be sure, reality can no longer be contemplated from a nowhere – and not only because we happen to be always somewhere. What emerges, rather, is a realism about indexicals that leads to a realism about the others (as others) – or so I argue. This realism holds that the relativity of positions is real – and not, for instance, that truth itself is relative. This makes an important difference that has to do with the very general structure that indexicalism recommends, namely, that indexicals are the (paradoxical) furniture of the universe. This general structure involving some kind of relativity – a situated metaphysics – is maintained to be true. Realism about the transcendent other and about deixis requires the claim that this structure holds.
Now, Harman argues that his quadruple structure of the object is not committed to a totality corresponding to a view from nowhere. It is clear that OOO claims that there is non-transparency in reality and that there is a dimension to every object that eludes (and transcends) the efforts to perceive it. That opaqueness, nonetheless, is hidden inside each object. A universe of Harmanian objects is where objects can be all viewed from nowhere – although there is a dimension of each of them that is hidden. If the idea of a view from nowhere makes any sense at all – and assuming that real objects withdraw even from the third-person eye – there is something inside the viewed objects that is concealed. It is not the structure itself that fails to elude a view from nowhere for, as Harman points out, the indexicalist structure is there also to be contemplated by a drone-like device. The OOO structure, however, makes each object available to be seen, albeit incompletely. In contrast, the indexicalist structure takes anything that is an other to any interiority as unavailable to a drone-like eye. It is as if non-transparency had been relativized. As a consequence, a view from nowhere would gaze at the interiorities but not to any of its others. There is not only a Great Outdoors that is unseen – the other of all that there is – but also an other to each interiority. Because of this, indexicalism is not subjectalist: correlation is not absolute because there is always an other that escapes apprehension. OOO, in contrast, as a granular perspective, holds that the real object is a residue of the correlation. The indexicalist other is not a residue of the correlation because if there is an indexicalist correlation, it involves the other – that is external because it is the other, drawing from Levinas' ontological argument. It is not clear that either of them is subjectalist because something escapes correlation – even if the correlationsare ubiquitous. Still, OOO is a realism about objects while indexicalism is a realism about deixis.
Harman doubts indexicalism and the metaphysics of the others can have a definite political import. In particular, he argues that the substantivism cannot be responsible for coloniality and partriarchy. It is not clear that reading a book (for instance, Indexicalism), as Aha Else points out, would have any converging effects. It is not clear that preaching indexicalism would be enough to change coloniality or patriarchy. Still, there is a diagnosis that can be made. The idea that substantives are a good guide to what is there makes one oblivious to positions, circumstances and circumscriptions – and ultimately to the Cerro Rico in Potosí as being anything other than a standing reserve of silver. Perhaps indexicalism is doomed to fail to lure the feeling that one is positioned and inscribed in a circumstance even when engaged in abstract thinking. However, the diagnosis that substantivism promoted the feeling of indifference to the locality can still stand. In this sense, the diagnosis is not unlike the one Heidegger (and Levinas) make of Western metaphysics and its offsprings – it promoted the idea that it is possible and desirable to keep the world at bay. If this Heideggerian diagnosis is brought up, it then makes sense to think that indexicalism can provide a roadmap to an alternative path to what Heidegger called the Kehre or the Sprung. In other words, it can provide a way out of the predicament that Western thought – either because it is homoiosis- or ousia- oriented or because it is substantivist – has persistently provided. Of course, this is no political program – and it is unclear how to extract a definite political program from the corresponding remarks from Heidegger (in the Beiträge, in the Geschichte des Seyns and in Bremen Lectures). Heidegger indicates that the change to come – post-metaphysical thinking, to coin a name – cannot be actively promoted but, at the same time, our actions and efforts cannot be indifferent to it. Further, it is not clear that such a change lies in the macropolitical right or in the macropolitical left. It has, nonetheless, a political import – that is perhaps cosmopolitical and, as I argued elsewhere ("The cosmopolitical parties in the post-human age"), the alternatives are orthogonal to the macropolitical parties.
That doesn't mean that the critique of substantivism is macropolitically neutral as well for I believe much can hinge on this diagnosis in macropolitical disputes to come. But that takes me perhaps too far. I'll limit myself to observe that the road between what takes place in the metaphysical arena and macropolitical alternatives is perhaps like the North-West water path from the Artic to the Pacific through Canada – just like Michel Serres describes in his Le passage nord-ouest. This is to say that it is not a straightforward passage but the road is also not entirely and definitely blocked. One can transit provided that the right moment, the right weather and the right equipment can be provided at each stage of the crossing.
Response to Prosperi:
Prosperi points out that the criticism Damián Selci makes of Levinas while elaborating his theory of activism extends to indexicalism. In a supposed politics of perception, the perceiving agent is immune to the others in the sense that it doesn't get transformed beyond an egoistic concern with concepts and coherence. The others could transform me out of my selfishness once and for all, Selci argued. However, if they do that, they will make others as such irrelevant – the others would interrupt my agenda only to ultimately transform it and make further exteriority irrelevant. From an indexicalist point of view, exteriority is not a chapter in the history of interiority but rather a constant pressing force that interrupts my agenda irrespective of my interiority. It is not about reforming interiority but rather about responding to the outside. In this sense, the others in a metaphysics of the others are not to be incorporated by a transformed interiority, but rather what is thoroughly exterior.
Response to Caron:
There seems to be a tension between indexicals and abstraction. In fact, indexicals are situated and dependent on acts akin to pointing, indicating, tracking or locating. On the other hand, abstraction is often considered to be tied to universality. Universal indexicalism deals in paradox – and this is a bullet worth biting, as I argued. But I'm not that sure that abstraction is committed to universality, neither am I sure that indexicalism runs to paradox by accepting any kind of abstraction. Similarly, I woudn't claim that abstraction is to be avoided from the point of view of a metaphysics of the others. There are, to be sure, many kinds of abstractions and not all of them simply obliterate exteriority. We are familiar not only with concrete universals, but also with abstract particulars. Tropes, as they are sometimes called, are resolutely particular and could be a challenge to existing concepts. Nor are abstractions necessarily at the service of, say, extracting the intelligibility of things. I believe that suitable doses of abstraction are required to depart from the metaphysical project – or to any of its variations.
Caron points at how indexicalism offers ground to the post-nihilist Marxism that I'm trying to develop. The idea is to combine a thorough trust in the release of new productive forces as a way to challenge existing human and non-human social relations with a rejection of any attempt to replace things – objects, processes, events – by their suitable artificial counterparts. That is, accepting the transformative power of production – or poiesis, perhaps – while resisting the turn of the world into Ge-Stell. I agree indexicalism can ground this development that is perhaps best thought as being situated once the forces of production have different impacts on how things are in different circumscriptions – especially if the reterritorializing drives of capital itself are set aside. Caron then proceeds to criticize post-nihilist Marxism as an impossible combination of what I defined elsewhere as the anastrophic and the catastrophic cosmopolitical tendencies of the present (see "The cosmopolitical parties in the post-human age"). The former tendencies see the present as ushering in an interesting future while the latter see it merely as the moment where what has been commendable in the past collapses. If I understand it rightly, Caron's misgivings with post-nihilist Marxism hinge on the idea that we can either accept or reject abstractions altogether. Now, as I see it, post-nihilist Marxism is not only a direct consequence of indexicalism but rather of an attention to addition – that leads also to what I have been developing as an antimonotonic, non-Tarskian logic of the supplement. The power of addition is what makes the changing forces of production capable to unsettle social relations. Further, it contrasts with the artificialization of the world not only because there is no substantive intelligibility to be extracted but also because the very introduction of machines changes the salient features of the landscape. Techné is not a replacement but a supplement to physis. Thought can be then disconnected to homoiosis and rather considered also in terms of the supplement: to think is to add something and to respond to what has been added. This, however, goes beyond the scope of Indexicalism.
Response to Johns:
The idea that exteriority is produced is a genuinely intriguing one as it helps to begin making explicit the microstructure of the friction between a Levinas-inspired position like indexicalism and a Hegel-inspired object-oriented dialectics. To be sure, there are many contrasts between the two positions concerning symmetry, reflexivity, transcendence and self-synthesis. Still, in an important sense, for indexicalism the outside is also produced (by me) for if it is taken to be reducible to a substantive description then it is going to be neutralized. This is what I call interruption – and it is a form of negation. The others appeal to me but they cannot impinge anything on me because if that was the case there would be no exercise (in the sense of an spontaneity) of passivity. If the outside were imposed on me, that would constitute merely a technical limitation to my sovereignty. This is an important difference. The infinite responsibilities I have over the others make me not free at all but that happens only with the aid of my freedom through which I can entertain some of these responsibilities. In the paradox of freedom, it is not the case that freedom simply disappears when responsibility comes to the picture – that the other is seen as other and not turned into the same is a production of my response to the original demand. That the exterior is made available through perception by an exercise triggered by an interruption in my spontaneity makes it, in a sense, sympoietic and this is what encourages the image of a conversation taking place in experience. This, however, says nothing about how I am perceived – it is not co-work in the sense of me and the others laboring together. This is where the diachrony of the others comes to the picture: the others as others are not in my present. They interrupt, interfere and haunt my present from a different time – a past that has never been fully present. This diachrony enables asymmetry. It also makes sure that it is not a matter of two poles laboring together. To expect the other to threaten me in any particular way, for instance, in reciprocity, is an exercise in spontaneity that already makes the other a substantive.
This diachrony also shows how negation, from a point of view informed by indexicalism, is not the ultimate building block of what is concrete. Before negation, comes the addition that is provided from outside. It is an other that ushers in a negation. As a consequence, contradictions – and even paradoxes – could be a consequence of adding elements to a structure that is sensitive to what comes from its exterior. Gregory Carneiro and myself have shown elsewhere ("Paraconsistentization through antimonotonicity: towards a logic of supplement") that a minimal system where every inference is sensitive to added premises is a paraconsistent one. This points to the direction that far from being the engine of the concrete, negation is a product of the need to accommodate added elements. The engine of the concrete, rather, would be exteriority.
Response to Moninska:
The book offers an account of perception in line with the metaphysics of the others. It doesn't offer, however, a conception of memory. Memory is not a place of transparency. This is why the past haunts us and dealing with others involves a persistent diachronia. Perception appears in the book as an arena through which it is possible to escape from oneself. The same should be said about memory because it is an always failed attempt to control what is coming back as remembrances. The haunting of the past responds to a requirement of justice that involves all generations – and this leads us back to Anaximander's sentence. It is in this path that indexicalism, as I realized later, meets the spectrology that has been developed by Argentinian philosopher Fabián Ludueña – somehow inspired by the efforts of Derrida in his Specters of Marx. Calls from responsibility come not only from what I perceive but also from what was left unresolved either in my previous perceptions or in the commitments of groups I belong. When Spinoza has this recurring dream with the image of a Brazilian black leper he once pictured in his head, he is haunted by the outside. As the infinite demands for justice in perception, unsolicited remembrances have claims on us.
Response to RayAlexander:
RayAlexander commends indexicalism to theologicians. I think this is an interesting move. And he does it in an interesting way by placing the book in convergence and contrast with the efforts of Raimon PanikkarI to think through the interstices where peoples of different faiths or conceptions of God friction. As RayAlexander rightly diagnoses, I have no theological aspiration. f I had to venture into a discussion about God, that would mimic the movements of the book in attempting to combine the Whiteheadian idea of deity in process whose nature is always being changed by the other actual entities on the one hand and an insistence in a personal God that is not alien to proximity. I haven't been pressed in this direction, so far. So I welcome this attempt to give me a road map concerning the relevant issues. In fact, Panikkar's Advaita seems to adhere to the idea that the fine-grained structure of positions dissolves the idea of a substantive interiority. It is not inside substantives but rather in the outside that any tie with any other can emerge. It is through the address where the other appear that a separation enables exteriority to thrive – as Levinas had emphasized, my complete communion with God would make my capacity to be commanded disappear for a complete integration means an absence of the other and therefore of any exterior pressure over me. Without atheism, there is no religion, Levinas claims, and similarly, without a separation from the other that ensures there is no interdependence, there is no room for the other to be a transcendent other. This dissolution of interdependence is also a result of a thorough rejection of totality that comes with a rejection of symmetry.
Through deictic paradoxical furniture of the universe a non-substantive God could come to the picture – what matters is that a reference is fixed for the corresponding noun. This will be a God without predicates – that means no specific capacities or incapacities. In any case, this is where an indexicalist theology, I guess, will go. Still, that's far from anything definite about what else could it be and the friction with Panikkar can certainly help. Still, there is a qualification RayAlexander does that could part ways. He writes: Panikkar broaches another facet of the Other that remains unmentioned in Bensusan: yes, the Other claims, captivates, captures, and obliges us, but is it not possible that the Other might also love us with a "rebounding love [reflectens ardor] [that] belongs to the ultimate nature of the whole"? Now, if by this he means that the Other cannot be expected to love us wuth the rebounding love that characterises the whole, Panikkar's theology is certainly close to indexicalism. If, on the other hand, if by this he is claiming that this love can be expected from something that is not the Other – and refering to a source associated with the whole, then the claim diverges from indexicalism. In any case, in the fruitful friction with Panikkar as RayAlexander presents, the issue of conversations is brought up again. As emerges from Shaviro's remarks, indexicalist contact with the exterior is not based on symmetry or reciprocity-oriented resolutions, it is unbalanced, lopsided. Reciprocity is perhaps not a requisite for an extended conversation that would involve not only silence but eventually suffocating aggression and explicit offense. But if is, the ways may part. Especially if that means that imbalance is always limited, constrained or bound – if it is so, an account in terms of substantives is looming. In any case, theology could be a good way to think through an assymmetry that resists at least certain forms of reciprocity for it is in an irreducible imbalance that the transcendence of the others lies.
Response to Vidal:
Ontological pluralism is certainly commendable. It is not enough, however, to meet Tsing's requirement. To multiply narratives of the world is not to leave space inside one's account to alternative accounts. Because there is more than one account, any account should make space and acknowledge that from within. This is why I believe that a pluralistic epistemology that places different ontologies on equal footing comes perhaps too late – complete accounts of how things lie already there. Vidal thinks of ontological pluralism in connection to her own encounter with the circumscription of the Cerro Rico. It is there that she hears from those who attend to the mountain – by working in it or living around it – that it will collapse. Indexicalism is a gesture towards a successor metaphysics that is not oblivious to what emerges when this mountain – with a past that perhaps haunts various regions of Western thought – is in proximity. Cogburn finishes his text saying that we will be known by the mountain. I guess this means that through silver a lot of the rest of the world has been brought to its proximity. Multiple accounts of the mountain, perhaps including narratives forged in its proximity, are welcome. But the successor metaphysics that indexicalism intends to promote would urge for an entanglement between them that makes sure the blind spots are accounted within each of them. Narrating, as much as philosophising and writing books, is an exercise in incompleteness.