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Showing posts from 2015

Limbale's last-minute-sex-change novel

Just finished reading a 2003-4 novel by Sharankumar Limbale, called Hindu. It is a dalit novel and, being such, it is novel of collectives and is interestingly mostly about public space events. It is about how dalits are forced by multiple powers to accommodate within the Hindu (and often Hindutva) order even years after the Ambedkar's struggles and the help of some legislation and federal institutions. The plot starts with the murder of a dalit leader and ends with the judicial acquittal of the savarna's perpetrators. In the meantime there are two elections, a lynching of a dalit women by savarna villagers, some episodes of betrayal and loads of soul-searching of dalit groups mostly around the convenience and efficacy of converting out of hinduism. The novel revolves around Gopichand and Manikchand, two brothers who act like one and appear as a double - two but acting as one, savarnas close to Hindutva and at the same time hanging out with dalits and providing money for their

First pages of the book on animism I'm concocting

The working title of the book is Linhas de Animismo Futuro , (Lines of future animism). What follows is just the preliminary opening paragraphs, as they are now: Não um espectro, mas um ancião cheio de plásticas ronda a Europa conceptual – esta que se espalha por uma geometria variável e que se encontra tanto nas academias quanto nos parlamentos, nas repartições de governo, nas corporações. Nem sequer um único ancião, mas muitos: os animismos. Eles são antigos e parecem fantasmagórico, mas parecem também biônicos, cibernéticos e protéticos. Espectros ciborgues talvez. Múltiplos, com muitas caras, muitas cabeças e muitas caudas. São os ecos daquilo que anima os outros: a atmosfera da terra, as populações animais, os insetos transmissores, a microbiota receptora, os equilíbrios ecológicos, o alcance das marés, o objeto qualquer. O não-humano, o natural, o que não passa de um objeto, enfim tudo aquilo que esteve por séculos posto a parte como não mais que um cenário ou uma paisagem de

Worlds and monads

The last sections of part 3 of Leibniz's Theodicy makes clear that interaction were part of what happened between the monads in the simulation process that takes place in the Palace of Destinies that Palas Athena guards. In fact, God had to consider all possible worlds in order to choose the right combination. Monads could be taken as building blocks that are agents or reagents. They have all their history encapsulated in themselves and therefore they are repositories of events. In Leibniz, there is an infinite number of them (and not an indefinite number). It is enough for God to choose a collection of monads in order to choose a world. God would consider the different classes of monads. Every contingent alternative was considered in the Palace: sinning Adam with the serpent and non-sinning counter-Adam with the iguana. God considered every counterpart of Adam and therefore the interactions between Adam and the rest of the world were played in the Palace before God. What is missi

Experience in a space of traces (or, more on Whitehead and Derrida)

I've been haunted by this strange and daunting crave to bring together Derrida and Whitehead. I've done that in several recent posts (such as this , and this and this or this ). I always do that often especially while reading Critchley's book on Derrida and Levinas ( The Ethics of Deconstruction ) with which I find myself agreeing with enthusiasm. In the last few days I came to think that if text is broader than language and written difference precedes (as conditions of possibility) not only meaning and the employ of symbols but also presence and whatever counts as the ontic itsel, writing is the territory where the ultimate object of experience lies. Experience is experience of traces (of writing marks). The Derridean correlate for the ontological difference is that between logocentrism (as in logic, physiology, psychology or ethology) as discourses and text, as the ontological is not the realm of presence - which is transcendentally constituted - but rather the space

Freedom to

Elizabeth Grosz calls attention to a conception of freedom that contrasts with that of the Kantian emancipation tradition where one is free if one is free from chains, from coersion. Freedom from is freedom to act in a self-determined way - it is freedom for agency, it is not agency itself. Grosz ascribes the idea of freedom to to Bergson´s freedom of action - it is connected to an act that has a drive and can be performed because spontaneity and contingency are present. Freedom to is what is done with spontaneity and contingency and is intrinsically non-indifferent. It is the positive side of freedom - and emancipation. This positive side is not the freedom from that Daniel enjoys in L'age de la raison , which is indifference, but rather the very possibility to act in a specific way. I think freedom to has to be thought in conjunction with Deleuze's claim in Pourparler (166): "si les oppressions sont si terribles, c'est parce qu'elles empêchent de mouvemen

Freedom and indifference

One of the main targets of Leibniz's criticism (directed to Bayle) in the third part of the Theodicée is the idea that freedom involves indifference. Both in the case of God's free (and wise) choice of one among infinite conceivable possible worlds and in the case of human freedom moved by reasons fully known by God. In paragraph 288 he considers that the three only necessary conditions for freedom are intelligence (distinct knowledge of the object of one's choice), spontaneity (absence of external imposition) and contingency (absence of a logical or metaphysical necessity conducting the course of action). (Incidentally, at least the two last conditions can be ascribed to any agent - or actant - that is not subject to further command either by other agents or by necessities.) Indifference, on the other hand, is both non-existent both for God and any substance (including Buridan's ass) and an anathema to wisdom - God acted wisely, this is why some potentialities were al

Intuitions need conversations?

Expanding on my previous post, I wrote a post in PhilPercs about the project of understanding propositions as irremediably dialogical. Perception is therefore always two-handed, something is perceived while being perceived, in a conversational structure that cannot be rendered in terms of sheer description.

Celan and deconstruction

In La bête et le souverain 10 Derrida makes a close reading of Celan's Büchner prize acceptance speech Le méridien showing what is at stake when Celan invokes the voice and the time of the other that constitutes his poetics. Few years before receiving the prize, Celan wrote a short prose called Entretien dans la montagne which introduces the issue of the voice of the other. Celan makes a distinction between the language said to no one, that language without me and you, and the discourse addressed to someone, said to someone. Stéphane Moses, commenting Celan's text, compares his distinction with the one by Benveniste, récit and discours , the latter being the language of the dialogues where voices are coupled one to the other and the former that language of the impersonal description. In the text, two Jews, Gross and Klein meet up and talk. At some point they consider the earth and the language used to talk about it: "un langage qui n'est fait ni pour toi ni pour

Externalism about experience

Being talking to Carol Marin about current debates in philosophy of emotion. We were considering whether it is still aptest to make the distinction between cognitivist and non-cognitivist approaches. Maybe the central issue is really around coordination - those who believe emotions are co-ordinated with the rest of one's psychic lives (like most cognitivists but also Gibbard) on the one hand and the Humeans on the other. Also, the issue is that since Aristotle's De Anima (where he separates the animal sensation from the vegetal development) and mostly after Descartes it is common to believe experience (or sensations, or sense impressions or the deliverances of the senses) in a way that is fully distinguished from emotions (or feelings, or sentiments, or affections). This split in the realm of sense and sensibilia shaped our philosophical panorama for centuries. Hence, emotions are irrelevant for empiricism and sense impressions are not emotions and both for no good reasons.

Interactions, intra-actions and the present time

Beginning to get acquainted with Karen Barad's notion of intra-actions. The issue that comes to my head is the timing of action in intra-action. Is it the present time of events - that is contemporary to us because it shares our sense of present - or rather is it a presence beyond all present time - a sort of previous time or maybe no time at all? Much of what goes on in process philosophy - and specifically in monadologically conceived process philosophy, like in Tarde, Latour and Whitehead - is the redemption of the present time as the time where determinations take place. The present time replaces structural relations or ready-made substances. So, in Leibniz's monadology, the presence of God and the interaction between monads take place outside the present time. Relations between the different substances are not necessary ones, as it is not necessary that the world is the way it is. That means that the world and the relation between different substances are not given by re

Whitehead and Derrida?

Been thinking whether it is just a coincidence that I'm into Derrida now. Maybe there is something to be found in the connection between Derrida and Whitehead. In a previous post I rehearsed some possible common points if we give a speculative reading of text and deconstruction in Derrida. I just wrote a philpercs post about propositions and perception.

On living agents with head and tail

The other day when we were about to finish a section on my seminar on Derrida's The Beast and the Sovereign we were talking about the ontological turn. Someone then asked me if I had abandoned it and decided to rather go back to text (to writing, to deconstruction, to Derrida). The gist of the question was that prima facie an interest on Derrida's work, unless thoroughly critical, is anathema to a robust commitment to find ways beyond the broadly constructed linguistic turn. I disagreed. First, I tried to explain my growing interest in Derrida (and in Jabès, Blanchot, Nancy) in terms of works like Malabou's where écriture takes a broader scope and is presented explicitly as the opening gate to some sort of ontology (of accident, of plasticity). But then I moved on to rely on the idea that the linguistic turn is not to be just left aside but rather rethought so that its insights can be re-examined in a different framework. This is what I sometimes call "a linguistic t

Without barren tautological absolutes

A main difference between Leibniz's monadology and Whitehead's system that we explored this week in my Leibniz-Whitehead course is that Whitehead's notion of process is presented as an alternative to "the reduction of the universe in a barren tautological absolute, with a dream of life and motion"( Modes of Thought , lecture 6, p. 93). There is always a possibility of invention and this is why we can never predict the future: something entirely other could always intervene. The universe is in construction and all fixity is the product of analogical capacities that make abstractions without being able to envisage their scope. In the following lecture (p. 107), he analysis variables and how they get their reference fixed - a x is any x but it become the same after it is introduced. But then he goes on: "self-identity is never complete in any advance to novelty". No whole and no individual is the same across the advances into novelty. Leibniz, in contrast,

Virtues and virtualities

This is my sketchy contribution to the symposium on Sosa's new book ( Judgment and Agency ). It is more or less like it was presented last July. It is meant to be part of a volume soon. I guess some arguments are vague but still there is something to it. I called it "Incompetent knowledge - virtues and virtualities". 1.A salient and attractive feature of the virtue approach in epistemology is that it is capable to place human knowledge within a realm of genuinely epistemic phenomena in the world. Zagzebski (2003) diagnoses that we are entering an askeptical period where the threat of skepticism is taken as dissolved or innocuous and epistemologists turn their eyes to the connection between knowledge and the rest of the world by seeing knowledge within a more general context of practices with truth and action-guidance. A symptom of this askeptical turn – or at least of the move towards seeing human knowledge within a broader epistemic realm – is the widespread use of e

Process and deconstruction (and their left-overs)

Whitehead makes a surprising move, beyond his position in Process and Reality , in Perspective , Modes of Thought . He holds that eternal objects themselves have perspectives. Everything that affects the sensible has perspectives. The sensible is the realm of concrescences, where things acquire forms, where processes are issued from their original data. In Forms of process , Whitehead presents the limits of process - what is fixed, concerned with space, time and deity. These are the remnants of process, what is kept in a Heraclitean sensible in constant life and motion. Process is non-ending and terminates in no fixity or stability, but it has its left-overs. Whitehead is close to Plato there: there is life and motion and there is a support behind all, except the connection between the two is not one of participation but rather that of fixed points relating to a flux or attractors relating to a transition. The fixed elements, as much as the unstable ones, have perspectives because they

More on contingency as plurality

Been discussing, in my Leibniz & Whitehead course, Leibniz distinction between determination and necessity (or hypothetical necessity and absolute necessity) in the Theodicy . Hypothetical necessity and determination have to do with the possible world chosen - they have to do with compossibility. The world can be determined - so that it is clear that I will buy the bicycle and not get married - but this is not by (absolute) necessity, it is so because the world is the way it is. The world is determined, it is not necessarily so, it could be different because there are many possible worlds, but it is determined because the world is determinately the way it is. I am the one who buys the bicycle but, to be sure, I don't know who I am because I don't know in which world I am (there is another suitably close possible world where my counterpart gets married). Still, my ignorance is not an ignorance of a necessity, it is an ignorance of a contingent matter of fact - this is the wo

Are some logics universally impossible?

Leibniz and Whitehead as ontologists of agents and on metaphysicians of perspective agree that when we consider the whole process (or the whole class of monads) there are no contradictions. Yet, finite beings can only coordinate what they perceive within perspectives and are guided by finite lab-like simplifications of the whole. These simplifications cannot be taken apart from the whole, and yet they provide some sort of mathesis localis . Maybe we can think of different logical systems in this way: they capture something but only by failing to be fully coordinated with all the rest. In our investigation of galaxies (classes of possible worlds associated to each logic), we are now wondering whether there are classes of possible world (that we call constellations) that cannot be galaxies. That is, there is no signature F of formulae that could formulate a logic that would make possible exactly the worlds in these constellation. Take a constellations formed by two or more worlds with

Conversation and animation

I've been thinking about what is at stake in conversations. Conversations are frictions of perspectives - they could involve many or just two parts, but not one. They are very different from simple apprehensions of information - something like a mirror image of what is being conveyed. In fact, conversations are not really about conveying anything, monologues get a message through, conversations have a different geometry. Grice's implicatures show that in a conversation interaction there are expectations built both from the conversation history and from the very structure of what a relevant, cooperative, well-mannered, qualitative and quantitative contributive dialogue is supposed to be. What is said in a conversation wouldn't mean the same or even make sense outside the frame of that conversation - contexts are part of the message. It seems further that there is no message without context (and no capture without coordination) for often the only way to find out is to go and

Slow activism

Last week I went to "Desfazendo Gênero", a queer event in Bahia bringing together activists and people reflecting on undoing gender. It was a tense event. Internal disputes framed by a hostile external environment in a reactionary country made it explosive. Keynote was given by Judith Butler who wise enough to sense the atmosphere and defend the rhythm of theory in a very elegant way. Theory building is slow and piecemeal thinking of alternatives and production of different tonalities. Theory construction is slower than usual activism because it can be read as slowed down territory where we can afford some attitudes otherwise difficult and rare. It can afford, above all, gestures of hospitality.

The plurality of formalities

In my work on logical compatibilities and classes of possible worlds (together with Alexandre, Rodrigo and Edelcio) we were led to tackle with the ambiguities in the current use of the notion of a possible world. Sometimes the expression is used to mean whatever is compatible with a given logic - and therefore given, say, classical propositional logic, a single possible world would be so that the snow is white or not. I'm inclined to refer to these uses of "possible world" with the alternative name of "world scheme". A world scheme reveals what is compatible with a given logic but a class of possible world in the sense that different world are compatible with the same logic is what we call a galaxy of a logic and it is can be seen as its ontological counterpart in the space of world. The study of galaxies opens some interesting horizons, one of them - which we haven't explored thoroughly yet - is the very issue of real contradictions, that is of the ontolo

Whitehead and Marx

Marx efforts to present fragments of a history of class struggles (especially in France, in his booklets on the years between 1848 and the 18 Brumaire of Napoleon 3rd) were an attempt to illustrate a method in historical explanations. This method could be described as that of avoiding the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. One could explain things in terms, say, of the existing legislation or in terms of the current institutions. Marx urges us to avoid that for the ultimate source of the events is to be found in their class agents - to whom a law or an institution (or a tax, a campaign, a candidacy) is of interest? The method is to track down what happened in terms of class agency. Marx procedures also illustrate something else: that events have a perspective that are intrinsically connected to the way things are perceived by each class. There is no sense of history disentangled from a matrix of importances: Marx's writings have to do with a proletarian (perhaps universal, but univ

My talk on God tomorrow

Drawing on this post from some months ago , I'll talk in a conference on Natural Theology and the Existence of God tomorrow, after hearing Swinburne's take on God and natural laws. Here is the text of the talk: Rethinking God Hilan Bensusan Believing in God is often understood as an attitude whose content can be expressed by at least these three propositions: 1. God currently exists (perhaps necessarily so); 2. God has a definite nature or essence and therefore can be finitely described (say, as the most perfect being that can be thought or as a unique omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent being); 3. God is independent of the rest of the world – God is prior to all other things (either as its Creator or not). 1-3 are the basis of what is frequently taken as natural religion, for it is commonly held as the minimal common core among any recognizable religion. 1 is part of this core because if God does not currently exist, there could be no difference God could make on