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Showing posts from December, 2011

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 si

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 s

Brassier's nihilism, concepts and objects

Brassier replies to me by email commenting on my recent post (Speculative Anti-vitalism below, 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 cosmological)

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 decided t

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