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Showing posts from March, 2014

Pláticas sobre contingencia en Xalapa

Last week I presented two talks in the Philosophy Department, UV, Xalapa. In the first one, I discussed contingency and facticity in Meillassoux: LA INEXISTENCIA DIVINA In the second one I presented a sketch of the book I'm writing: LA REPENTINIDAD Thanks to the audience, great attention, great discussions.

History at the time of ontological turns

Been very enthused with Charles Mann's 1491 and his other stuff this weekend. He does manage to present a convincing story of how the Americas were diverse, far more populated than commonly thought and full of complex ecological strategies. An important part of this total history endeavor is epidemiology - and its links with demography. Small pox and chicken pox were introduced to the Americas together with the habit of living with animals and had devastated effects. The anthropocene is also the layer left by all the microbiota associated with the human modes - with herding cattle, eating domesticated meat etc. These illnesses changed the demography of the continent (in a degree that syphilis never managed to do in Europe or elsewhere). The greatest of these demographic-epidemiological plots he depicts is the one that connects malaria (to which loads of African are immune to a large extent) and slavery in the continent. Societies that depended on slavery were the ones that were inf

Latour and Meillassoux

Preparing a talk about Meillassoux tomorrow at the University of Veracruz. Nothing much, just some remarks about his notion of contingency from the thesis of divine inexistence. But I thought of some strategic similarities between him and Latour, whom I've been reading quite a lot recently. First, both believe in the insufficiency of critique. Latour wants to put forward a constructive project (and not only a deconstructive device) to propose something that, while not absolute, would reform what we currently have (something more comfortable than the set-up of the moderns). Meillassoux sees himself as a critical philosopher, but he reckons that critique without speculation - without trying to reach absolutes - give rise to fideism and paves the way for irrational exercises of faith. Both want to reconstruct as deconstruction (or philosophy as criticism) is not enough. Further, both end up with a kinda messianic project for the world (a fourth World of justice for Meillassoux, and

Anthropology as a method for ontology

Roy Wagner has that anthropology is philosophy with people inside. In a similar vein, Viveiros de Castro talks about compared ontography and Latour wished to provide an inventory of the modes of existence (AIME, conclusion of part 2) for the purpose of compared anthropology and diplomatic negotiations. In my couse on Latour’s AIME we were discussing what was the best way to capture his ontology-anthropology amphibious approach. (Entitling the book An Investigation into Modes of Existence – An anthropology of the moderns” already gives an idea of the juggling he believes to be required to his endeavour.) I guess his take (together with Descola and Viveiros and maybe, to some extent, with Lévi-Strauss when he talks about the importance of native philosophy towards the end of his life) is that anthropology informs ontology. The thoughts and manners of other collectives make us look for ways to carve up the world so that we can make sense of their beliefs in a way that do justice to them i

Substances vs instances

In chapter 7 of his AIME, Latour considers the mode of existence of metamorphoses - that he nicknames MET. This is a mode of existence that contrasts sharply with what is substantial. He contrasts MET with what repeats itself, what subsists, what is engaged in its reproduction (REP). He finds MET in what is taken to be elusive, invisible, hard to spot, unmeasurable (by the standards of the mode of existence prêt-à-porter, DC, double click). MET will be the mode of existence of miasmas, animal spirits, possessions, demons, angels and all kind of entities that the moderns prefer to reduce to something internal to their minds - as if they were all in their own psyche. The moderns do that because they associate existence with stability - what is not stable but sparkling is perhaps a second creation, perhaps the transformations that we ourselves promote in the world, but the interior (to the mind) is a mode of inexistence. If we take further the route of Plato's parricide (which is what

Latour and Rorty

Latour, in AIME, debunks the ontology, semantics and epistemology of what he calls the Res Ratiocinans. It is a mix of Res Cogitans and Res Extensa that makes the world intelligible and pictures knowledge as something free of any construction. It is a ready made material world indifferent to the activity of any actor, human or not. Its language is literal-ese, the privileged vocabulary to mirror the world. Other languages are pure metaphors, nothing but culture. Its epistemology is that of avoiding construction, even the best ones. It is a fanaticism: no construction can replaced revelation. Rorty's criticism of privileged vocabularies makes no appeal to ontology. His point is to distribute respect to all languages by making them all worth of the same blend of pragmatist anti-realism and Davidsonian capacity to convey a great number of truths. Latour's strategy is to respect all languages by taking them seriously ontologically. He can be read as an ontologized Rorty. Instead of