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Thursday, 8 April 2021

Recursivity and the supplement

 Yuk Hui has the merit of showing how complex the cosmopolitical issue raised by Nietzsche (at least read by Heidegger) really is. Complex in the sense that it is perhaps not the end of a road – neither because the will to power is the fate of everything after the world is rendered fully commandable nor because metaphysics has reached an end concerning which only a new beginning can save thought from a dead end. Hui hints at different possibilities that follow from the completion or quasi-completion of the project of turning the world into a Ge-Stell. If the world is rendered commandable and everything is put at whoever controls it disposal, the commander still acts in a sovereign manner. This sovereignty could stop someone to make use of what is in standing reserve but also could make someone come up with a different use of it. In any case, the relation between what is available to be done (or ready to be controlled) and the sovereign agent is cosmopolitically open. In other words, not only free spirits struggling for power and a tamed world turned mostly into a standing reserve will inherit the nihilist cosmic transformation of things. There could be what we can imagine as Nature 2.0 that would develop organically around the fragments left by nihilism. One can imagine that Nature 2.0 is not even more than the outcome of a spiral movement that has been happening as a consequence of the organic movement of what is natural. Hui claims that once we have an organic (or organologic) understanding of how things interact, we stop thinking about the ultimate nature of things and start thinking, instead, in terms of thriving and sustainance. That drives our attention towards post-nihilist organisms capable of built themselves from the nuts and bones of the assassinated God.

That attention to the organic capacity to survive nihilism is based on the power of recursion. Actually, on the capacity recursion has to integrate contingency. What is contingent then emerges as what is not yet part of a systematic (and recursive) account. Contingencies bring about diversity, and if there are different recursive organs (or machines), then the contingencies that will be met by them are different and the emerging system will be then different. Within the system, nevertheless, there is thoroughly immanent: contingency is nothing but what is not yet part of the system. In other words, the incorporation of a contingency is going to make the recursive empire different, but contingency once incorporated is a colonized territory. Plurality, to be sure, ensures that there are recursive colonial machines attached to each incorporated contingency and the recursive colonial machines that didn’t incorporate the contingency in particular are exterior machines. There is an outside, but the outside is always fated to be incorporated.

Recursion is a drive towards completion, even if it is multiple. Multiple recursive procedures are not challenged by their plurality, rather, they are corroborated in their steadiness facing the recursive expansion. It is as if we had a Dutch, a French and a British colonial recursive machines expanding their empires – tacitly, it was established that no dispute in the colonies would disturb life in the metropolis. Recursion depends crucially on operations of addition repeated systematically; incorporating contingency is facing it as something add to an existing system. Classical addition is monotonic. In contrast, a supplement-based addition – and a supplement-based system – is such that addition demolishes instead of growing. Likewise, a supplement-based computation is one where additions erode previously amassed conclusions.

Additions come in important varieties. Consider any a as what is added to any A. If something was lacking in A that is found in a, we can call it a completing addition. There are also additions that require no specific lack but a general lack, so that there is space in A for a without eroding A. Perhaps because A stands on its own with or without a – call this an addition in completeness – or because A doesn’t stand on its own with or without a – call this addition in incompleteness. Both these last kinds are neutral additions as the added element makes no difference to A. There is, however, another kind of addition in opposition to the previous three kinds: eroding addition, or supplement. Here A is complete, or saturated, or exact: the addition of a makes it collapse. An eroding addition is pursued not as an expansion, but as a self-erosion or self-fragmentation. A supplement is something that changes the previously existing system and eventually makes is stop functioning.

In a recursive procedure there is a systematic addition. It is a conquering addition. Take the general recursive structure: 1. X(1) is the case; 2. If X(n) is the case, X(n+1) is the case. It stacks a pile – accumulation without erosion. Recursive addition is completing or neutral. It is unlimited growth. There is nothing but growth – there is no risk involved because sooner or later the annexation is completed and no price has to be paid. Once, for instance, things are seen as having a nature (or a nature for us), the technological annexation is inevitable.

What emerges from the idea of a critique of recursive colonialism put forward by Luciana Parisi and Ezekiel Dixon-Román is that the recursive backbone of technological expansion is crucial to make an idea – such as that of a physis with a noûs extractible into a Ge-Stell – colonizing and prevalent. It is not only to Ge-Stell tas what can act as (an) essence of technology that we should cast our eyes, but also to the recursive mechanism that makes sustains it. A radically different computational technology is one that processes not in a technological manner – and perhaps can proceed through eroding additions.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Heidegger's an-arché

Draft of a section of a paper on the anarcheology of forests:

The endeavor Heidegger called history of beyng (Geschichte des Seyns) is at the same time cosmic – and, to a large extent, cosmopolitical1 and archeological – and, if it is so, it is an-archeological.2 Throughout his contact with the archives of Nietzsche in the mid-1930s, he became persuaded that the metaphysical forgetfulness of being and the corresponding ontological difference between being and beings3 were a consequence of an arché – a beginning, an Anfang – which is itself to be exorcized.4 That initial move placed physis – the nature of processes but also the way things unfold by themselves, of their own forces and their own accord – at the center of the effort to think the world through. That starting point paved the way to the bias of thought towards control expressed in the endeavor of extracting the intelligibility of what it finds around. It is perhaps not clear, or not relevant, whether this course of developments was doomed from the outset or was rather tainted by the metaphysics it generated and maintained. Perhaps another route could have been taken at some juncture in the road. In any case, the beginning ushered in by physis – and by an associate notion of truth as aletheia, unveiling5 – grounded an era that hosts the metaphysical efforts to ensure things are separated from their intelligibility.6 The inception carried that development even if it could be avoided or postponed. Heidegger was persuaded that this first beginning was desertified7 into a project that makes thinking into an effort to secure an ever-extending surrounding that is both calculable and commandable.8 This beginning was the inception of a relation between thought and all the rest – or rather, between thought and what it is about. The enterprise of making everything understandable and controllable was born in the inception ushered in by physis and that project had all sorts of consequences, for things that were turned into objects (of thought and of standing reserve), for the world which is turn into a controlled ensemble of positions or a functioning device (Ge-Stell) and for physis itself which is ultimately turned into an instance of a disconnected and multiply realizable intelligibility.9

The coming of this first inception – its arrival and the subsequent consequences issued from it – is itself an event, an Ereignis10 and therefore comes from a more primordial source. This is a source that is behind the grounding that physis offered. Physis, as a first beginning, is followed by the history of metaphysics and is itself issued from this second and yet more primordial source that nonetheless is not a ground of grounds – or an arché of the archai – but rather an absence of ground that Heidegger calls Ab-grund (abyss, or un-ground, de-ground).11 That the era commanded by and commenced with12 physis was itself an event grounded nowhere but in a sheer arrival exemplifies the more original character of the second beginning which comes from beyng – the more ancient being that is not unveiling but rather the very clearing (Lichtung) that enables any appearing.13 Clearing is not a revelation of the underlying intelligibility, it is not what makes something seizable or understandable for it is not a presentation from which an intelligibility can be detached, as is aletheia, but rather a mere taking-place. Heidegger understands that the truth behind truth as unveiling is a mere showing, a presentation as what happens when light arrives in the forest in a clearing. In contrast, he considers that aletheia was transformed into revelation (for someone) as physis was degenerated into commands and calculation; truth was turned into adequacy, adequaetio intellectus et rei.14 Aletheia was turned into a certainty as physis was turned into thesis.15 Clearing, in contrast, holds that truth lies in the unfolding of things and not in what is unveiled of them for someone, for a truth-bearer. Truth-as-clearing escapes physis because it precedes it while grounding nothing; truth-as-clearing is indeed nothing but the opening that makes anything appear or arrive. Beyng is the abyss of the event that unveils no hidden intelligibility. It lies in the very question that could be phrased in terms of a quest for intelligibility but offers no foundational answer.

The history of beyng heads towards what is most primordial as it reveals events that are of a cosmic nature such as the pursuit of metaphysics. It is a history which brings about more original beginnings – it is not a history of what follows (from) an arché, it is not a history of sequences or consequences. Rather, it is a history of starting points that could be more primordial while coming later. Because we are often attentive only to what follows from what, we cannot see such a history taking place in a time of arrivals. It is disturbing for our sense of intelligibility because first things not always come first; further, it is not a history of thought separated from its effects and not a history of what there is irrespective to thinking. The history of beyng is partly about the effects of thinking – and calculation, machination, treasuring Ge-Stell16 – over the world and the effect of what the world then triggers on thinking. The advent of metaphysics brings to the fore a history that cannot itself be thought through by metaphysics itself17 – from a metaphysical point of view, nothing takes place either with being or with anything more primordial than it. From that perspective, beyng could have no history for it is what can barely be conceived among beings. Metaphysics, remarks Heidegger, is incapable both of farewells and of beginnings18, and beyng is essentially beginning19 – and hence a farewell.20 But the history unveiled by the occurrence of metaphysics brings about the daring character of an arché, which is ultimately stepping backwards towards a non-grounded pure beginning.21 The cosmic character of the history of beyng lies in the distance it keeps with the chronology of what follows what (Heidegger’s Historie); it is a history of beginnings that engages thought as it revolves around the moment of grounding. Thinking that is not following the consequences, is proceeding backwards towards what can precede but has no power to command an arché. A thought that can entertain what could be the second beginning – Ereignis – is a thought which unearthens the soil where thought could rest in the age of metaphysics. The possibility of this unearthing thought is the possibility of a history that does more than capturing the intelligibility of time – a history that faces up to the non-grounded in time. Thinking beyond the coupling of being and thought (and of time and history) that makes grounding possible is anarchaeological.

Revolving the ground is dwelling in what is not in itself capable to ground; Heidegger finds the second beginning in the incapacity to have power, in the very indifference to power.22 Further, that ungrouding an-arché can be appropriated by what can ground power and by what can dominate the very effects that veil beyng; this is because physis is itself an arrival. The ground still rests on what is underneath, even though it cannot ground anything. This is the sense of the indifference of beyng to power: beyng can be appropriated by physis while letting it happen and the abyss under the ground can be kept unnoticed. The (an-)archaeology of beyng under the ground depends on the excavating effort facing the thinker – which is, at the face of it, for Heidegger, the human. Beyng is therefore dependent on the human; such state is tolerated by beyng which is not craving to be unveiled and concedes to the human the freedom to think it through, a freedom grounded in reference to being.23 What uncovers the abyss inside the ground is the detection, mainly carried out by Nietzsche according to Heidegger, of nihilism as an event in the underground history – an Ereignis. The discovery of thesis arising within physis is the thought that enables the unveiling of a different beginning.

It is this urge for a second beginning that appeals to the non-grounded that disconnects thought and being and that makes history alien to the chain of historical consequences. Being, what is connected to physis in the first beginning, harbors beyng inside it as any attempt to ground anything carries the gap of a primordial event. When that gap between the destiny of physis, now unfolded – call it thesis, or Ge-Stell, or Wille zu Macht – and beyng that dispenses that destination is thought, a new beginning is made possible. That an-archaeology cannot be a product of a decision – that will place the gesture within metaphysics which is the forced exposure of what was previously presenting itself of its own accord.24 But neither can it come as an imposition of beyng over humans for it is the former who depends on the latter. Heidegger insists that thinking is a state of readiness, neither forcing a beginning nor accepting it as independent of listening to the word – independent of thinking.25 This readiness to what is unveiled that involves no act of excavating – this an-archeological state – is prompted by questioning; asking is what spells the future of beyng.26 The question is in the neighborhood of Ereignis, unbearably near and yet seemingly far – die abgrundige Ferne des Nahen.27 The question concerning fire – the physis of inflammability – triggers the Promethean control but within it there is a question; a question about the events that give rise to phaos – which says the same as physis in its multiplicity.28 The dawn of the destiny of beyng (Seynsgeschickes) concealed Ge-Stell and machination in its inception29 – that destination was in the question that carries in itself a kinship with the force that brings Ereignis about. The ungrounded ungrounding is like the question – indifferent to power and yet dependent on the thinker which is compelled to entertain it.

The twist of the movement can be described as a step from beginning with an arché, a ground, an intelligibility that can be detached from what it makes intelligible towards seeking a corresponding an-arché which is the very question that made the ground possible and the extracted intelligibility intelligible. A move from a ground to an abyss, from a commandment to an emission, from a departure to an outset. Ereignis is hidden in physis, beyng is packed inside being – archaeology is wrapped around an-archaeology. Thinking beyond the first beginning is thinking about what came before the beginning; it is the inception of the inception, the first gesture of a grounding. Beyng, therefore, lies in lack of ground underneath the arché – it has no answer and cannot be measured.30 Heidegger takes beyng to be akin to the questionability of all decisions31 – this indicates why Ereignis is also Austrag, the resolution.32 The move from the first beginning to its consequences and then backwards towards the second beginning correspond to a movement through three fundamental tonalities (Grundstimmungen): from wonder to weirdness to the abyss.33 Wonder triggers a quest for reasons and that quest makes whatever is recalcitrant weird, strange, unfamiliar; instead, what precedes wonder is the astonishment that is not a question concerning what is before the thinker, but an immersion in the very questioning of any resolution taken. The abyss lies within the pre-foundational stage, among the an-archai, it lies in the pre-history of any resolution; an-archic is the question concerning the resolution which is going to be unfolded. The abyss belongs in the resolution and in Ereignis. It also belongs in the an-arché (Ab-Grund), in the absence of foundation that every ground is wrapped around.

The Ereignis of nihilism is taken by Heidegger to be something both cosmological and an-archeological. There cannot be a physis of nihilism – or of Ge-Stell – because that will do no more than carrying on the very project of nihilism and the event, with the resolution that brings it about, would not be considered. To face the event of nihilism, one needs to see it as ungrounded, as an-archeological. But by the same token, that harbors a cosmological import: all things are not subject to the long assassination of God because there is a major event presiding the history of metaphysics which is the assassination itself. Nihilism is not all that there could be about the cosmos – neither is metaphysics the only project of intelligence to cope with it. Seeing the event of metaphysics as a cosmic Ereignis – one for which there cannot be an arché within the realm of physis – opens the view to something else that could underlie the (cosmopolitical) relation between thought and being. Heidegger claims that the history of metaphysics unveils beyng precisely because it unveils a history that includes an an-archic preamble that overshadows anything else. If the history of metaphysics is considered under the light of the event it unfolds, it can open a path towards a history of beyng where the absence of ground is the protagonist. It is in the origin of metaphysical thinking that lies the resolution that determines the course of its development and within any determination there is an underlying abyss.

1Cosmopolitical in the sense of what is about a general configuration or state of affairs involving humans and non-humans, see Stengers, Cosmopolitics. See also Bensusan, “Geist and Ge-Stell”.

2See Bensusan, Being Up For Grabs: On Speculative Anarcheology.

3See Heidegger, History of Beyng, XI, 113.

4See Heidegger, History of Beyng, III, 23, 31.

5See Heidegger, History of Beyng, XII, 147.

6See Heidegger, History of Beyng, XI, 115.

7See Heidegger, Mindfulness, II, 9.

8See Heidegger, History of Beyng, VI, 57.

9See Heidegger, Insight into that which is, lecture 2.

10See Heidegger, Mindfulness, III, 14.

11See, for instance, Heidegger, History of Beyng, V, 37; VI, 52; VII, 82.

12Arché is often understood as simultaneously what commands and what commences, see, for instance, Agamben, What is a commandment.

13See Heidegger, Mindfulness, V, 37.

14See Heidegger, Mindfulness, V, 37.

15See Heidegger, Insight into that which is, lecture 2.

16See Heidegger, Insight into that which is, lecture 2.

17See Heidegger, The word of Nietzsche.

18See Heidegger, On Inception, I, 7.

19See Heidegger, On Inception, I, 7; I, 25.

20Derrida, in “The time of farewells”, claims that farewells, that can always be a “see you soon”, elude the language of metaphysics

21See Heidegger, On Inception, I, 6.

22See Heidegger, Mindfulness, XIII, 65.

23See Heidegger, Mindfulness, VII, 55

24See Heidegger, Mindfulness, II, 12.

25See Heidegger, Mindfulness, II, 12, last paragraphs.

26See Heidegger, History of Beyng, IX, 104.

27See Heidegger, Draft for Koinon”, History of Beyng, last paragraph.

28See Heidegger, Mindfulness, VII, 51.

29See Heidegger, Insight into that which is, p. 62.

30Heidegger, Mindfulness, XXVI, 88.

31Heidegger, Mindfulness, XXVI, 88.

32Heidegger, Mindfulness, XXVI, 81.

33Heidegger, Mindfulness, XXVI, 74.

Yuk Hui

Beginning to read Yuk Hui's Recursion and Contingency in our anarchai research group. Hui seems to intend to update process philosophy with some of its basic tenets being kept: a commitment to transparency and immanence, the idea that processes have an upper hand on initial conditions and an attraction to the biological, the organic, the units of action and interaction. It is from this perspective that he will tackle the problem of technology: the problem of seizing the powers of nature. He thinks that seizure is never-ending as much as nature itself is full of instability and transformation. The notion of recursion will allow him to think that the structures of power are best suited to organic entities than to mechanical commands. The seizure of power will appear, I guess, as a cosmopolitical gesture that is part of an ongoing struggle for the formation and maintenance of surprising organisms. If he is right (and if I am right about his project), recursion will appear as a powerful addition to the process philosophy toolkit (and to the immanence-driven thinking in general). Those of us that hold rather that transcendence plays a role in the plot, will be then left with the task (exciting, I guess) of once more learn with the sophistication issued by the efforts to think immanence through.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Malabou on erasing traces

Been reading the beautiful La plasticité au soir de l'écriture, an old book by Malabou. She advocates clearly there that we have witnessed a movement - a transformation - from a graphic to a plastic paradigm. She does that by defending a thoroughly immanent conception of change where there is no outside. It's a clear counterpart (or opposition) to the idea that change - and in fact, negation - comes from addition (from the exterior). She argues that the graphic times are over and the plastic times are considerably different - she does that by pointing at a convincing convergence between the Hegelian post-historical and the Heideggerian ultra-metaphysical, by pointing at the relative capacity of form to be indifferent to traces, by appealing to epigenetics and by looking at the synapses of the brain where there is a transformation that cannot concern only writing. I tend to think that even if the time of the graphic is over, there should be a figure of excess like that of supplement in the graphic paradigm. In other words, Malabou fails when she argues that forms are independent. Heidegger and Derrida seem to imply that forms are only meaningful when they are not by themselves (fully present, metaphysical). There ought to be an outside even if it works in a way that is non-graphic (not through traces).

A crucial feature of Malabou's characterization of plasticity (and of evening) is that traces are erased. Now, in our research on the logic of supplement, we make clear that when something is added as a supplement everything changes - that the premises are kept without inferring what they did before shows that they have no longer the same impact. This seems to me as equivalent to erasing traces. Maybe the brain undergoes changes where the past is fully removed - but it seems to me that memories are removed, that presences are removed, traces with their capacity to make new differences they are kept somewhere even though they mean something very different. True, there could be a plastic dimension that emerges from traces, but it seems unclear to me that erasing everything makes any sense unless the assumption that there is no outside is enforced. The trouble, it seems to me, is not plasticity itself but rather that it does away with the outside (as supplement, as exteriority, as transcendence and as excess).

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

La Terre, cette schizo


si les oppressions sont si terribles, c'est parce qu'elles empêchent de mouvements et non parce qu'elle offensent l'eternel (Deleuze, Pourparler 166)

Carrying on from the previous post, addition is also production. Outside the sphere of physis turned into thesis, the artificialization of the world is not a replacement based on the extraction of what is intelligible about things, but rather an addition that disrupts everything else. Production, not representation. Poien and ergo and not realitas – or adequatio. In my last class about Marx, I spoke of the Marxist anastrophe as a fortune of a communism told by capital. The driving force is production – the forces of production force taking things out of the little treasure of my nature to transform them into links, relations that can dispense with the perculiar in me because what I had is invested in them. I become anyone. I can be replaced. Production is a scheme of deindividualization through communist connections – production uninterrupted by registration and distribution is what triggers the schizo, the proletarian that lives around an anonymous production. 

Production, and addition, is an industrial topic for thinking. 1972, the Anti-Oedipus year, was perhaps the peak of the general trust that industries will change the face of the Earth. Rachel Carlson first published her Silent Spring a decade before and the idea took over just after Deleuze and Guattari’s hyper-industrial aggiornamento of Marx and Engels. The intrusion of Gaia – who herself got into the picture through James Lovelock by the time Deleuze and Guattari were supplementing their message with their Thousand Plateaux. But the intrusion of Gaia is often met with calls for preservation. Is production – and addition – out of fashion if industries are taken to be overall more evil than good? 

We can get back to Deleuze’s formula in the epigraph and instantiate a variable: si les oppressions [de la Terre] sont si terribles, c'est parce qu'elles empêchent de mouvements et non parce qu'elle offensent l'eternel. The issue is not that the Earth is constrained to stop being what it was – or what it thought it was – but rather that it is restricted in its movements and suppressed in its capacity to forge productive alliances. Deleuze and Guattari then, by Thousand Plateaux, write: the Earth, the one who is deterritorialized. Maybe she is considered to be what it has always been to force her out of production and the forces of production that change things through – just like the pre-productive structures that capital has to keep in place. The non-human is left outside production and not brought in because the Earth is perhaps too productive and the inorganic body that the workers could produce with the Earth would be too intense, too anonymous, too indifferent to capital. If this is so, we can say: the Earth, the one who is schizo.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Bring things together

I had some general ideas that unify most of what I've been thinking through and researching into lately. I realized that thinking about addition - as what is underneath any negation - brings together my interests in indexicalism (and perspectivism, and the Great Outdoors, and the Other), in cosmopolitics (and in particular the role of artificialization in the history of the furniture of the universe) and in the logic of supplement (and in the very idea that negation is a supplement). The central unifying idea can be stated as a slogan (or a formula): n + 1. If we start out with a broad idea of excess - and non-intended abundance - we counter various assumptions concerning identity, subsistence and intelligibility. The very project of metaphysics - in the Nietzsche-Heidegger way of seeing it - results from taking things to in a specific way that enjoy some kind of permanence. Further, this can be done also by a relation-based metaphysics where things join together as a blob or as a whole and as such they have an underlying physis that could be extracted and reproduced. If the agglomeration of things is junky (Bohn and Schaffer expression for a world where everything is a part) and subject to permanent addition that act not as what completes what was previously missing but as a supplement that challenges what was there before, there is nothing to be extracted but surely something to be produced from understanding how things are. 

Quickly and roughly speaking, addition (and the supplement) escapes from the genealogical line of physis - the first beginning, as Heidegger calls it in the mid-30s (Besinnung, Geschichte des Seyn etc). We can even think that the second beginning, closer to inception and incapable to either ground or be grounded, Ereignis, can be taken as an addition. To be sure, Derrida understands the trace - which is a supplement - as what brings up presence and therefore as what acts as an Ereignis. That underlying abyss in physis (and presence) is also understood to be an appropriation of what was already in place - an appropriation is hardly what completes what there was or keep things as they were. Whenever something happens - something is written on an already written surface - everything else is vulnerable; addition brings about uncertainty, vulnerability, ungrounding. It is from the abyss of addition that things can appear as forming an intelligible and persisting structure - like a text, like a world-view, like a collection of truths to be exposed. The very Ereignis of metaphysics as an event in history of beyng - or as a cosmopolitical moment - is also an addition, well, it is a supplement. In fact, we can read Heidegger on the origins of metaphysics in terms of a suppression of action or work (ergo, poien) in favor of products, acts, actuality and a fixed reality.

Further, addition poses a problem to the ontologism taken as an unchallenged assumption by Heidegger - albeit eventually replaced by an ontologism of beyng. What comes in Ereignis is rather the Other - or the Great Outdoors. This remark is just to indicate how addition connects to indexicalism: indexicals are ways to relate to what could be added, they offer a navigation through the channels of addition. 

In any case, addition also leads to the issues concerning the infinite. A universe open to addition holds no totality and maintains no truth. The departure from the project of metaphysics ushers in a conception of the intellect as a productive instance, as an acting machine more than a representing one. The image of a converging Geist is replaced by that of a diverging assemblage of multiple lures for feelings. However, in the spirit of my indexicalist situated paradoxico-metaphysics, that means no commitment to an absolute immanence, rather, addition is possible precisely because of some kind of transcendence (the abyss, the Other, the Outdoors, excess). This is where a lot has still to be thought: maybe the categories of transcendence and immanence, orthogonal to those of negation and addition, are to be somehow rethought. (And I mean it perhaps even as a rereading of Spinoza.)