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Showing posts from March, 2015

Metaphysics without neutrality (and animism)

In my dialogues with Adriana Menassé (soon out in Stoa ) I sketched a view that brings together some elements of animism with a Levinasian ethical outlook. Involved with the discussion of Derrida's Violence et Métaphysique it strikes me as if in fact a Levinasian take could inform a contemporary form of animism. Levinas stresses the need for a second parricide: the inclusion of alterity and multiplicity in the kernel of things beyond being and non-being in their strive for unity. Levinas insists against the operation of neutralization that, according to Derrida, is the very Greek element common to Parmenides and Plato (and his Stranger), and also echoing in new Greeks like Husserl and Heidegger. Neutralization is to consider the other as, in its arché, not a new command (or a new commencement) but rather more of the same, conceived as a neutral element. There is a common stuff to all beings (seiende), whatever exists is in its ultimate stance something common, call it being (Sein)

Immigrating to philosophy

Rereading Derrida's Violence et Métaphysique I'm stuck in his opening remarks that are meant to introduce the crucially non-Greek (and therefore foreigner) thinking character of Levinas. Derrida stresses from the beginning this Greek character of philosophy. He goes: "il ne s'agit pas, on le sait, d'occidentalisme ou d'historicisme. Simplement les concepts foundadeurs de la philosophie sont d'abord grecs et il ne serait pas possible de philosopher ou de prononcer la philosophie hors de leur élément". And yet, this is only to show how Levinas works out an undertone that makes Greek thought incommensurable in his thinking, a genuine foreign substance. The foreign (Hebrew) undertone shows up in the discomfort with the maneuvers of Husserl and Heidegger - these Greeks, says Derrida - all the way to face Parmenides as a double stranger who has to undertake a second parricide so that the absolute solitude of what engages in being can be properly highlighted

Resources: the proletarianization of the non-human

Been discussing the latest book of Deborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro ("Há mundo por vir, Rio: Cultura e Barbárie, 2014) in my course on the philosophy of the anthropocene. This week we covered both the chapter on the us after the world - on accelerationism, singularity and the Breakthrough Institute - and the following one on us before the world - on the pre-cosmological era in amerinidian thought. According to such idea, animals, plants, sky, sun, moon etc - together with metereological or geological events - were people as we are the ancestors of all beings. It seems like we are the arché , both in the sense of origin and in the sense of ultimate physis of all things. Hence, while we see jaguars and wild pigs as non-humans - and we must do it in order to do some important interactions with them, including hunting and eating them - we know that at heart they are humans. There is nothing but humans around, no world. Cosmography is no more than a superficial - yet im

Monadology and design

Leibniz was in the endeavour of putting forward a political theology - and, at that, he was close to what was then called natural religion. His way of doing that was to conceive a Great Architect, who was the perfect designer of all things. The design problem for him was one of optimization: how is it possible for a designer to build a perfect order so that he wouldn´t have to interfere whenever things go wrong. The optimal project was the best of all possible worlds. But worlds were conceived in terms of local agents. He optimized design by ascribing agency to the greatest possible number of entities - divide to govern, could be the motto. In this process of optimization, he created the idea of monadology: different entities that are interconnected by a common plan, each makes sure that the common plan is reinforced. It is like a government that tries to maximize its power by maximazing its civil servants. The idea of a monadology was a new deign idea: direct rule works worse than wid


In his third Gifford lectures, Latour remarked how difficult it is to conceive what is not capable of intentionality - what is, so to speak, not an intentionality-bearer. The issue is, he claims, not that people quit animism, but that most of them became inanimists. To be sure, bearing intentionality doesn't mean to act intentionally always: the presence of different actants in the world accounts for inintended acts. He says: final causes seldom reach an end but rather are interrupted by other final causes. Just like Whitehead's satisfaction, it only for a short period of time that an actual entity enjoys fulfillment of its aims. Actants interrupt each other and therefore there is plenty of unintentionality in the world. But unintentionality is a byproduct of the spread of intentions - a crowd of whos gives an impression of a what. Latour puts things in a Derridian way: providence is itself spread, he aims at a political theology with a plurality of providences as opposed to a

Soft facts vindicated

Been thinking of my very old paper with Manuel on soft facts . The main inspiration there was Wittgenstein's remark that God needs to do maths in order to know something mathematical (for instance, how does pi expands). God cannot be a mere observer, any truth-monger is also an agent, in terms of my previous post. This goes well with the idea that scientists deal in construction, and construction is not something whose authority has to be found in their representational capacity. As Latour says somewhere in AIME, it is because they are good constructions that they are true. These are the idea behind soft facts: facts that are product of processes (or ententes). They cannot be reached unless you make the path that negotiation between agents require. In other words, years later, I guess that the idea of soft facts is tenable and recommendable. As it is formulated in the paper, its (implicit) account of agency - restricted to human - and God's - agents - tainted it.

Truth-mongers, truth-contributors and sponsors

I've been working on a new way to conceive and present my sponsoring account of truth. The account is inspired by the following quote of Latour: Une phrase ne tient pas parce qu'elle est vraie; c'est parce qu'elle tient qu'on la dit vraie. Elle tient à quoi? Mais, justement, à beaucoup de choses. Pourquoi? Mais parce qu’elle a été accroché à plus solide qu’elle. Personne ne peut maintenant l’embraler sans défaire le reste à quoi ele tient. (Latour, Irréductions, 2.4.8) Been involved in the literature around the work on truth-makers started by the work of Mulligan, Simons and Smith and in the literature around propositions present mostly in Wettstein's work and in the book by Soames, Speaks and King (New thinking about propositions, Oxford Scholarship 2014). Currently, my schema for the new version of the sponsoring account is the following: Ontology: Sponsors: these are the basic item in the ontology. They are like agents, capable of bringing some

The propositional turn

Since 2009 I have been toying with the idea, that titled a paper I gave with Manuel in a Metaphysics of Science conference in Nottingham, of making a linguistic turn of 360 degrees. If the linguistic turn amounted to move from things to words, to the structure of the world to the structure of language (and from the believer to the speaker), a linguistic turn of 360 degrees would move through words, language and speakers only to get back to things, world and believers only in a more informed way. In other words, to adapt an image put forward by Tim Williamson, language can be a telescope for metaphysical inquiry. I´ve been reading King, Soames and Speaks interesting book on propositions ( New Thinking about Propositions , Oxford Scholarship, 2014). More than the arguments themselves against sententialism and a Davidson-like theory of meaning, the idea of the book enticed me to have another look at propositions. In fact, much philosophical enlightenment lies in the very possibility of

Against property (and sumak kawsay)

A beautiful theme that emerges from Noys book on accelerationism ( Malign Velocities , Winchester: Zero Press, 2013) is the appeal to innovative, even glamourous ideas to counter the seemingly daring gestures of accelerationism (and one-track left reasoning in general). Noys stresses the importance of rethinking work. (See my post on Noys'book .) To reconceive work in order to make it less precarious and also less dull requires rethinking property. The left is nowadays very vague or very modest in its critique of property in general, as a political and ontological outrage. It is vague because Marxists insist on the various processes of proletarisation (of dispossessed peasants, of illegal migrants, of those rendered redundant by technological advances) and make clear that a work force has to own nothing but their labour, in contrast to those who own means of production. But it rarely proposes policies and strategies to weaken property. It is modest because people like the Pirate Pa