Skip to main content

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). Neutralization is the abolition of differences (a bit like the operations ascribed to Aristotle, Leibniz and Hegel by Deleuze in Différence et Répétition). What replaces the neutral is the face, the visage which points towards infinity and appears irreducibly in the meeting, in the encounter one has with the other. The face is never neutral for it resists being part of anything, it is an irreducible particular (or singular) that neither is part nor participates. It cannot be summoned by an anamnesis. It cannot be known, it can only be met. It is, as I would say in my Excessos e Exceções (Sâo Paulo: Ideias e Letras, 2008), a purely non-cognitive acquaintance. It inaugurates a metaphysical gaze, as opposed to an ontological one because the call of a face is fully non-theoretical, one doesn´t talk about a face, one talks to a face. The face also resists all forms of formality (one of the criticisms to Buber´s I-Thou that Derrida ascribes to Levinas, in a footnote in page 156 of L´écriture et la difference, Seuil 1967). The face is meant to be the pure countenance of the other.

Now, one can read this in animist terms. According to Viveiros de Castro´s perspectivism, the Amerindian sees the jaguar as the other while aware that she is a human and sees a fellow human as a human as much as a jaguar sees a fellow jaguar as a human. Everything is about meeting the other (and meeting the same). It is about how something appears in a meeting, whether as the other or as the same. According to Descola´s view on animism, the non-human admits of no general knowledge before each meeting - apart from the knowledge of a common agency, a common interiority that is what enables the Amerindian to negotiate with the jaguar from agency to agency. Animism contrasts with naturalism that holds the idea of nature as something that can be known and is common to everything I can meet (and is neutral). Nature can be known before any meeting and in a sense subsumes the meeting - there is something neutral preventing the other to bring genuine (and complete) novelty. It is ontological in this sense, while animism can be constructed as being metaphysical in Levinas sense: the other appears as the other, and the only common element is the face that relates to me, in an ethical relation (that is mediated by the diplomacy of violence). Such a diplomacy contrasts with the empire of violence that ontological (naturalit) views would promote. Derrida (footnote, p. 136, op. cit.) has a description of such diplomacy in terms of an economy of violence: ..."toute philosophie de la non-violence ne peut jamais, dans l´histoire, [...] que choisir le moindre violence en une economie de la violence". The animist negotiates with what is present - it is not about the general plan, it is about who one happens to meet - and meeting is gazing an agency in a world of iletés that somehow are capable to summon.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My responses to (some) talks in the Book Symposium

Indexicalism is out: l https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-indexicalism.html   The book symposium took place two weeks ago with talks by Sofya Gevorkyan/Carlos Segovia, Paul Livingston, Gerson Brea, Steven Shaviro, Chris RayAlexander, Janina Moninska, Germán Prosperi, Gabriela Lafetá, Andrea Vidal, Elzahrã Osman, Graham Harman, Charles Johns, Jon Cogburn, Otavio Maciel, Aha Else, JP Caron, Michel Weber and John Bova. My very preliminary response to some of their talks about the book follows. (Texts will appear in a special issue of Cosmos & History soon). RESPONSES : ON SAYING PARADOXICAL THINGS Hilan Bensusan First of all, I want to thank everyone for their contributions. You all created a network of discussions that made the book worth publishing. Thanks. Response to Shaviro: To engage in a general account of how things are is to risk paradox. Totality, with its different figures including the impersonal one that enables a symmetrical view from nowhere

Hunky, Gunky and Junky - all Funky Metaphysics

Been reading Bohn's recent papers on the possibility of junky worlds (and therefore of hunky worlds as hunky worlds are those that are gunky and junky - quite funky, as I said in the other post). He cites Whitehead (process philosophy tends to go hunky) but also Leibniz in his company - he wouldn't take up gunk as he believed in monads but would accept junky worlds (where everything that exists is a part of something). Bohn quotes Leibniz in On Nature Itself «For, although there are atoms of substance, namely monads, which lack parts, there are no atoms of bulk, that is, atoms of the least possible extension, nor are there any ultimate elements, since a continuum cannot be composed out of points. In just the same way, there is nothing greatest in bulk nor infinite in extension, even if there is always something bigger than anything else, though there is a being greatest in the intensity of its perfection, that is, a being infinite in power.» And New Essays: ... for there is ne

Necropolitics and Neocameralism

It is perhaps just wishful thinking that the alt-right seemingly innovative and intrepid ideas will disappear from the scene as Trump's reign comes to an end. They have their own dynamics, but certainly the experiences of the last years, including those in the pandemics, do help to wear off their bright and attractiveness. Neocameralism, what Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land with him ushered in as a model of post-democracy that relinquish important ingredients of the human security system, is one of these projects that is proving to be too grounded in the past to have any capacity to foretell anything bright beyond the democratic rusting institutions. It is little more than necropolitics - which is itself a current post-democratic alternative. Achile Mbembe finds necropolitics in the regimes were warlords take over the state-like institutions (or mimick them)  to rule on the grounds of local security having no troubles killing or letting die whoever is in their path. Neocameralism pos