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Showing posts from August, 2017

Totality and object-oriented ontology

In his interesting "Levinas' triple critique of Heidegger" , Harman presents Levinas as a critic of Heidegger in three respects: one to do with ethics (or rather the ethics of ethics, as Critchley would put), one to do with separation and one to do with substance. He points out, quite correctly in my view, that Levinas' original attempt was to provide a metaphysics devoid of any commitment to totality; totality, Harman writes, is his "strategic enemy". In Totality and Infinity (T&I) he exorcises totality thoroughly by proposing a metaphysics in the first person where one's selfishness and its interruptions form the basis of the narrative. Hence, the egoism of incorporating the others by the same in order to survive and the interruption placed by the other from outside through a metaphysical desire present in ethical demands as much as in the public language imposed on my selfish freedom or spontaneity. At the same time, Harman objects that the metap

Levinas and immediacy

I'll write a bit about my class on the last sections of chapter 1 of Totalité et Infini (T&I) this morning. Specially about the section "e) Language et attention" in "Vérité et justice". The issue of mediation. To be sure, when one claims that there is a mediation between A and B (call it C), one is still under the obligation of determining whether there is a mediation between A and C. This can lead to an infinite regress. Or to an arbitrary stop. Often one argues against the immediacy of our contact with the world but not against the immediacy of our contact with conceptual norms or a linguistic practices. Brandom once wrote that "we met the norms and they were us". That is, there is no mediation between us and the concepts - even when concepts are crucial to mediate our access to intuitions (and are what can provide content to them). I take the issue of thematization (and not that of what is a theme) to be central in this sections of T&I

Linhas de Animismo Futuro available

Just out!

Levinas' infinitism

Today in my course on Levinas we were discussing his thesis, in "Vérité et Justice" (T&I), that criticism should lead not to the thesis that spontaneity is incompetent for knowledge but that it is unworthy because unfair to the Other. Doubt - as criticism should precede theory as much as metaphysics should precede ontology - is a moral concern. Although since Sextus the movement of doubting is described in terms of other voices, diaphonia, the insufficiency of reasons shown in cases of underdetermination etc, the idea that the trouble that epokhé creates was technical and not ethical prevailed. Levinas provides an ethical interpretation of criticism: one suspends judgement because of the Other, because the Other sets limits on my freedom and on my spontaneity - justice invests on my freedom, makes it worthy. Now, Levinas holds that the Other is infinity. And that infinity is not anything theoretical but something related to moral transcendence through the Other. Infinit

"Amanhontem": the self-collapsing Goodmanian predicate

The argument against Humean critique of induction based on the factual or empirical (and therefore inductive) character of expressions like "tomorrow" or other expressions of the future. To doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow is intelligible only if "tomorrow" is understood and therefore if some inductions are accepted in order do doubt others. Specific doubts concerning the future cannot be formulated. Today in my epistemology course I was exploring the analogy between Hume and Goodman and therefore between the new and the old riddle of induction. Goodman's predicates are always defined in terms of temporal predicates - "green if observed *before tomorrow* and blue otherwise". To simplify, we can formulate all these non-standard predicates - grue, emerose, nexists (something that exists if observed before a given time and doesn't afterwards) - in terms of "tomorrow". Now, we can concoct the predicate 'tomorterday': something th

The Interrupted Nexus, the first few lines

In the current form, The Interrupted Nexus , a book I'm writing, starts like this: There are two ways of thinking about the others (the other human, the other than human, the unexpected other). The first derives from thoughts about co-existence. The second conceive of them as transcending. In both cases, if the others are taken as a metaphysical ultimate, truth is not a matter of contemplating an already existing and self-standing order but rather follows from the very presence of others. It becomes a product of pluralism (of diaphonia, of dissent) and not something that which transparency is tainted by it. The approach to truth favored by the first is hinted by Bruno Latour when he writes: 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 r

The ontology and the metaphysics of agency

Been thinking of a different, Levinasian way to present our five-fold alternatives concerning agency. The original one is something like this: 1. Ontology without agency (La Mettrie, Meillassoux, perhaps Spinoza) 2. Agency without agents (Simondon, Karen Barad, perhaps Deleuze) 3. Monadologies, agents are interdependent (Leibniz, Latour, Tarde, Whitehead) 4. Independent agents (Harman, perhaps Garcia) 5. Agents without ontology (Levinas, Benso, perhaps Celan) See, for instance, these talks . Here, 1 is opposed to 5, 2 to 4 and 3 stands in the middle under the pressure of both its sides. I thought it can also be presented thus: 1. Ontology without metaphysics - without anything personal 2. Metaphysics based on an ontology of agency where nothing is personal but there is some agency around 3. Monadologies: a compromise between ontology and metaphysics 4. Ontology based on a metaphysics of units of agency 5. Metaphysics without ontology - everything is personal

L'intériorité est le congé de la totalité

Tomorrow I'm lecturing on some of the initial ingredients deployed by Levinas in the argument of Totality and Infinity . He believes Descartes provided two important contributions to the project of a non-ontologist metaphysics as sketched in Plato's Sophist by the Stranger. (The project of having the Other paired with Being - and Same, Rest, Motion - and not as a derivative of what there is.) First, Descartes brought about the notion of infinity that is a concept that is beyond itself and therefore beyond the thought of a totality - an infinity that, I believe, cannot be reduced to actual infinity. Second, Descartes brought about the notion of interiority and therefore the possibility of a time that is different from that of history in its objectivity. Interiority is what makes separation - between me and the Other - possible and therefore what makes pluralism possible. Further, it is the interruption in totality. The notion of interiority contrasts indeed with history and the