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Showing posts from October, 2011

Melancholia and the existential crossroad

Went to see Trier's Melancholia again last night with my friends Monica Udler, Lorraine de Fatima and Julio Cabrera. I wanted to see some details again, like the exact moment where Claire starts moving her arms in the last scene and the way Justine initiates things, including the plan that leads to the last scene. Julio thought the flick was about the ontological difference. Justine, to whom nothing happens, is like the being whereas Claire is all involved with the ontic. Leo, on the other hand, is like co-belonging, as he closes his eyes and feels protected not by the right shield but by the atmosphere of a cocoon. Monica sees the Dasein in Claire and points out how John is the one mixed with the varieties of the beings. To be sure, things do happen to Justine, she goes through phases of letting go: the abandonment of things, the abandonment of self and then some sort of emergence of care. Maybe those are ontological events that contrast with what happens to John and Claire. Int

Somatism and individuated objects

The other day I was thinking about my way in the perdurantism vs endurantism debate (the former holds that this table now is part of a whole composed by the table now together with this table a second ago, this table two seconds ago etc - mereology of objects depends on how we carve up time - and the latter holds that each of these tables are one and the same (whole) object). Then I stumbled on the question of how do we want ready-individuated itens, like objects (or particulars in general). It is maybe a somatist intuition guiding us here to attend to individual bodies rather to their genesis. Objects are the bodies of the universe and we somehow tend to think in terms of them. Maybe somatism concerning mentality has to do with the idea championed by Brentano that we intend objects. It is as if thinking about their genesis would be to lapse into the dark space between the thoughts (Dieter Roos' poem that I quoted in my book: «thoughts are like the stars at night, we see the stars

The genetics of contingency

Discussing Hamilton Grant in the Speculative Philosophy course. Comparisons between the two kinds of speculative materialisms (his and Meillassoux's) were the high points. Hamilton Grant makes use of Schelling's Unbedingt (unconditioned, but maybe also "unthinged" - which points at the pre-aristolelic anti-somatist physics that Schelling wants to usher in, a physics where bodies are not assumed to be the starting point but the question of how to fold up matter into bodies is part of the endeavour). The Unbedingt is somehow like an absolute - it is not conditioned, it is not in a correlation and therefore it would not lead to any kind of metaphysics of the subjectivity (or metaphysics of the correlation). This is what makes Naturphilosophie different from process philosophy, in the former there is an unconditioned while in the latter there are no more than biconditionalities (correlations). (We were playing with words like Zweibedingt or Beidebedingt for correlation.).

Fiction and the existence threshold

The other day when I was lecturing on Souriau and Latour's notion of "instauration" someone asked me whether we can help bringing about something by claiming that it doesn't exist. Today we considered the issue of bringing things about in connection to some solutions to the Plato's beard aporia. Take Latour's conception of truth: it is not that something holds because it is true but rather that something it is true because it holds. It gets interesting if we consider what we do when we, say, write fiction. We can say that fiction we provide descriptions associated with characters and go in some length in the direction of making them credible. Consider, for instance, Russell's theory of descriptions. We can say that by writing fiction (and providing descriptions for, say, Sherlock Holmes or Gregor Samsa) we do everything humans can do with bare language to make something (like a person) exist. We don't go further, the characters don't cross a thresh

Sponsoring, reduction and haecceitas

Reduction is one of those things that is interesting to rethink under the light of some process philosophy. It is a good starting point to consider the world in terms of processes - as Latour does in Irr├ęductions. The point is not quite to do with what is reducible, but rather to the very process of reduction which is crucially related to bringing things about - to "instaurer". In fact, things are brought about to play a role, to be treated as someting, as black boxes. Hence, a tick picks on the horse (and the cow, and the human) while reducing it to a mammal, a river brings about its banks reducing the complexity of the mud into something that holds its flow. To bring about is to reduce what is around into something else - and it has to pay the cost of transport. The starting point is gunky, that is, there is no ultimate staring point for composition - and to compose is to reduce. Reduction points at the process of creating something from something else. When we reduce tempe

Quick note on desiring machines and the ontology of flows

There is a sense in which the speculative method of Whitehead is somehow applied in Deleuze and Guattari's sketch of an ontology of desiring machines in Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze took his take in metaphysics to be close to the style of Whitehead (see Robin Mackay's article in the Collapse volume on Speculative Realims). Desire is an immanent connecting force that acts as a centrifugal element by connecting items indifferent to their ranks, orders or species. The psycho-analytically blessed nuclear family as it appears in the Anti-Oedipus is an institution that preserves a centre by making the flows (in the capitalist territorial machine) always come back to a nuclear unit of dream and desire. The flows are the flows of capital and those of desire that are turned centripetal by the Oedipal devices. Instead of letting the capital flow in a riverbed of centrifugal desire, capitalism makes room for accumulation by making it return home which is always where desire ought to remain. Wh

Meillassoux and Latour on irreduction and contingency

Discussing Meillassoux in my Speculative Philosophy course. We just came out of three sessions on Latour and Harman's take on him and we're still full of that atmosphere. Latour's principle of irreduction (1.1.1 in Irr├ęductions) says that nothing is either reducible or irreducible to anything else in itself. That means that it is neither the case that in itself each thing is one thing and not another thing - a world of arche-atoms - nor that there is a blob of interconnections or intercorrelations that is all-pervasive - a world of an arche-blobject postulated by monists like Horgan. Instauration (bringing things about) is what produces both individuation (irreduction) and connections (correlations) and it ought to pay the cost of transport both to bring things apart and to connect them together (to make them sui generis and to make them reducible). Consider the two branches of metaphysics of the subjectivity that Meillassoux seems to be unhappy with - because they fail to

Quick note on Souriau and the ontological difference

A quick note, I'm off to lecture on mereology. Talking about instaurer (bringing about, in my translation in The Cubist Object) with Luciana today, it occurred to me that we could find the difference between all the bringing about acts (the one that makes this table, or this city) and the act of bringing about itself. The existing things as opposed to the act of making them exist. Room for an ontological difference where being is an act. (Is this pointing at Souriau's surexistence?)

Occasionalist causes and substances

Latour claims that substances have no substrata. They are like threads that hold the pearls in a necklace. They are, I understand, like black boxes. Anything that is acts like an actant is good enough - if it can be treated like a pearl holder (a ground for a bundle of alliances or an assemblage), well, it is a pearl holder. There is no substrata, there are no dispositional properties, no potentialities, no vorhanden-heit. And no causal powers. This is where Harman takes occasionalism to be close to Humean scepticism. Actualism is the common ground: something in act has to bridge the gap between causes and effects. The causal gap - like the existential gap - would disappear without a plurality of mediators: the world is animated because there is a plurality of agents eager to pay the price in alliances to get things done. For Hume, our habits alone do the job of bridging together the causal gap. The future is conceived by us to resemble the past. For Latour, our networks work in the

Four corners of the world?

Been using the four corners of the Marseille Tarot card World to explain some metaphysical projects in my classes. These are projects that take the four predicates Universal, Particular, Abstract and Concrete as special features of the world - its four corners. The top left corner, with the angel, points at the abstract, the eagle corner to the universal, the bottom left to the concrete and the bottom right to the particular. Then we try to make do with less than four corners - making others dispensable. Some classical projects try to ally either both corners on the bottom to make the other two dispensable (the nominalist projects) or the top corners to make the bottom ones dispensable (the bundle-ist project). The general difficulties of these projects lie at trying to get the bottom out of the top and vice-versa. How to get particularity, for example, out of bundles of properties without having to swallow the undesirable consequences of taking indiscernibility to be enough for id

Actualism reclaimed

Been digesting further and further Latour's process philosophy and looking at ways in which there is no genuine correlationism there. But feel more and more attracted to some version of actualism like the one process philosophy and my ontology of fragments affords. Placed in a proper network of alliances I can play the zither and speak Javanese. Talk about capacities and skills is talk about soft biases in the following sense: they are all ceteris paribus claims, they are claims about the current network of alliances I am inserted. Alliances can be made with the whole universe. A given network could have skills but it depends on being kept as such by the rest of the world. (A zither player can undergo, say, a traumatic experience of any sort that would wipe off his skills.) Then I feel more sympathetic towards conditional analyses: to be fragile is no more than to be broken in neighbouring possible worlds. Finkish dispositions? There are loads of antidotes that can stop a possible