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Object-oriented ontologies vs materialisms: what is at stake 1 (Objects and concepts)

Been thinking more and more in terms of two poles: object and matter. In a sense, process philosophy is engaged by Harman as part of his war machine against materialism. As he says when discussing what he sees as the drawbacks of Latour's metaphysics (in The Prince of Networks), Latour's alliances, black boxes and tests of force are not enough to exorcise the notion of matter altogether. He pledges that objects can provide a more thorough measure of the exorcism he deems necessary. He sees in the appeal to matter an operation of undermining objects that ought to be resisted as much as those operations to overmine them and explain them away in terms of impressions or appearances. The appeal to matter is not the only one among such undermining operations. In process philosophy itself, it is common to invoke something like the Simondon's principle that individuation always precedes individuals. In other words, that there is a process of constitution of objects that is somehow

Knowing singularities by heart

Went to see a beautiful exhibition by Carlos Lin where he presents photos of the skies pinned with acupuncture needles. That somehow inspired my friend Luciana and me to discuss a bit about how to know singularities. Lucien Freud defends memorising or knowing by heart against learning - he says he was always interested in knowing few things but by heart. Knowing by heart is the only way to know singularities, there is nothing there (as far as the singular in them is concerned) that can be known otherwise. No general system of classification, no description, nothing but what is akin to knowing a name. Like a fold in a body known by heart and painted to explore by Lucien Freud or a fold of a cloud, the pinned singularity in the needles of Lin. That very point in the cloud's fold can be named, can be pinned, can be given a geographical location but to know it cannot mean anything other than knowing it by heart. I remember in my book Excesses and Exceptions I consider the anomaly of

Vibrant matter and non-philosophy

Jane Bennett, in her Vibrant Matter, focuses on a combination of matter and process - of what is left loose yet harbouring powers and what is in the process of producing whatever exists. Matter is akin to the absolute, to the Schellingian unbedingt that Hamilton Grant brings back to the fore. Hers is a story about thing power, a potentiality of matter that contrasts with the actuality of objects. She has room for the onto-genetic tectonic underlying objects and finds it in whatever resists, in whatever escapes, in the clinamens present in every orbit. She claims from the outset that she will "shift from the language of epistemology to that of ontology, from a focus on an elusive recalcitrant hovering between immanence and transcendence (the absolute) to an active, earthy, not-quite-human capaciousness (vibrant matter)" (p. 3) This is an interesting shift. No more meeting the borders from within - talking about what resist the drive to correlate, so to speak - but rather to

Brassier's nihilism, concepts and objects

Brassier replies to me by email commenting on my recent post (Speculative Anti-vitalism below, http://anarchai.blogspot.com/2011/12/speculative-anti-vitalism.html) on Nihil Unbound (NU) and its criticism of vitalism through the notion of extinction. Brassier takes the opportunity to present an elaboration of his current disagreements with the NU project: NU equivocates in a dangerous and misleading fashion between the logical and the ontological (or the conceptual and the metaphysical), especially in its final chapters. I ought to have emphasized the disjunction between these two registers, as well as their intrication, much more carefully.  I tried to clarify this in responding to someone who asked me about this issue and I hope you don’t mind me reproducing some of my answers to him here (it was part of an interview for a Slovenian student journal). The significance of the concept of extinction goes beyond mere acceptance of a scientific discovery (whether biological or cosmologi

Five years philosophical serialism (and its very premature death)

Yes, 5 years ago, Luciana, Rudhra and me started the movement and gave it up in few months. A report was published in Portuguese and quoted in my book Excessos e Exceções. Manuel and me presented the saga to a large audience in the Spanish spring of 2008 with a performance by Fabi (not allowed to burn books in the lecture theatre). Philosophical serialism is the attempt to apply some of Schoenberg's principles of composition to philosophical thought (and philosophical prose). The idea is that our thought is already prefigured by chains of tonality that make us think of, say, death followed by finitude, of virtuality followed by contingencies, of matter followed by passivity etc. Serialism was aimed at disrupting such practices by making it mandatory to think following the path of a series. The series was formed either by philosophers (a thought by Butler followed by a thought by David Lewis, say) or by ideas (singularity followed by the arbitrary etc, say). At the time we decide

Speculative anti-vitalism

Been discussing Nihil Unbound in my lectures recently. The book gets interesting, in my opinion, from chapter 5 on when Brassier brings in Laruelle and notions such as determination in the last instance. Laruelle has this interesting reversal of a transcendental deduction whereby the object imposes itself to the subject and ends up determining itself in the last instance. It is a true reversal of the Ptolomaic counter-revolution. Brassier puts this together with the move towards extinction that is carried by each craving for knowledge. It is a drive towards a low degree of being or towards being colonized by the object, being occupied by the thoughts imposed by the objects that called us (he mentions Lévinas Autre in this connection to refer to the way the objects call upon our attention) and that extinguish us by promoting in us a turning into something else. Brassier brings in Heidegger's being-for-death then to join together the drive towards objects and the drive for death - t

Truth and sponsoring

Went to the local conference on truth and logic and presented a sketch of a Latour's theory of truth. Text below. Assigning Truth or, Is truth what holds? Une phrase ne tient pas parce qu'elle est vraie; c'est parce qu'elle tient qu'on la dit vraie. (Latour, Irréductions, 2.4.8) I'm going to do no more than to unpack this epigraph. My unpacking, however, will carry a metaphysical baggage which I will motivate but will be likely to do less than fully defend. The baggage is strongly shaped by a framework provided by process philosophy, inspired by Whitehead, Souriau and Latour himself. This will take me to a substantive account of truth. If the account is plausible, it will place truth (and some parts of logic) outside the places reserved to it by the maneuvers of the linguistic turn in its heyday. Latour's dictum together with the metaphysical baggage will take me towards a very rough attempt to look at truth in terms some

Remarks on the future of ontology

This is the text I presented in the Anarchai Colloquium on the future of ontology. Estas são algumas observações sobre o que me parece ser o futuro da ontologia. Começo com uma análise de conjuntura filosófica bastante geral e termino com uns projetos de trabalho. 1.Renascimento da metafísica: os agentes provocadores Nos últimos anos temos assistido a uma retomada do interesse pela metafísica da parte de quem faz filosofia. A cena filosófica parece hoje ter mais espaço para questões acerca do que há e um rumor que está bastante espalhado diagnostica que alguns projetos associados à crítica à metafísica – entre eles as concepções de filosofia oriundas a partir (do correlacionismo) de Kant, a concepção de filosofia como estudo do método da ciência, a virada linguística e a concentração da fenomenologia na consciência – estão exauridos e precisam ser substituídos por uma nova injeção de reflexão metafísica. A idéia é a de uma retomada da concentração sobre como as coisas são, de uma r

Epistemic virtues in the first person

Paper with Manuel is to appear in the Croatian Journal of Philosophy The idea was to show that epistemic virtues could also be not first-personal enough. I transcribe below a bit of the argument in the middle of the paper. Surely, rejection of the privileged status of first-person access admits of degrees: we can merely claim that avowals are sometimes insufficient to establish everything one believes (or desires, or fears); in circumstances where first- person access is silent, one could appeal to third-person procedures. This weaker version of the claim that the first-person access falls short as the ultimate authority fails to have all the authority over my beliefs (and other mental states) can be correlated with the following versions of Moore paradox (which I shall call MI for Moore Ignorance): (MI) I don’t believe p, but p. In this version, I claim ignorance about p and, at the same time, I take p to be the case—presumably because I have some reason (for example, another